“The Pox and the Covenant: The Curious History of Science and Religion in Colonial Boston”

Looking for something to do midweek? Enjoy a Wednesday night at Shenandoah University and learn about an aspect of early American history.


“The Pox and the Covenant” by Tony Williams

If in the lower Shenandoah Valley or can make the trek, join Shenandoah University’s History Fellows in welcoming Tony Williams, senior fellow at the Bill of Rights Institute, for a guest lecture.

Author of five books on the Early American history and holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Syracuse (NY) University and a Master of Arts in United States history from Ohio State University. After a successful 15-year teaching career at the middle and high-school level, he became the Program Director at the Washington, Jefferson, & Madison Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2014.

The lecture will be held at Henkel Hall, Hester Auditorium and will begin at 7 p.m. Williams will have his books for sale after the talk, including the title that bears the lecture’s name.

For information and questions, please contact Jonathan Noyalas, Chair of the Shenandoah University’s History Fellows at (540)-665-4501 or jnoyalas01@su.edu.

If interested in other events at Shenandoah University of this nature, check out the link here.

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Announcement: Emerging Revolutionary War Series

This summer Emerging Revolutionary War will launch its namesake book-series, the Emerging Revolutionary War Series published by Savas Beatie LLC, a military history book publishing company based in California.

The initial two volumes of the series will discuss the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the opening salvos of the American Revolution and also the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, two engagements that kept the cause of American independence alive in the bleak winter of 1776-1777.

Look for the the first two books in stores and online this summer. For a preview, courtesy of Amazon, click here for In a Single Blow. For Victory or Death, click here.

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Leaving Vegetius Behind: The British Army’s Departure from Classical Military Influence (1754-1783) – Part 2

Read Part 1 here

During the spring and summer of 1754, conflict over colonial possessions in North America erupted in western Pennsylvania. England’s military influence was ousted from the Ohio River Valley, and before the year was over the Captain-General of His Majesty’s Forces, the Duke of Cumberland, planned to dispatch regular troops to the colonies. Major General Edward Braddock, along with a thousand men of the 44th and 48th Regiments of Foot, was ordered to Virginia to organize a four-pronged summer offensive against the French at the Forks of the Ohio River, in Nova Scotia, the Great Lakes region, and along Lake Champlain. The two British regiments with Braddock had served primarily in Ireland, and possessed minimal experience in combat (Colonel Sir Peter Halkett’s 44th Regiment was lightly engaged at Culloden in 1746). Historian David Preston described the experience carried to North America by the senior and junior officers of Braddock’s expeditionary force:

While there was a growing sense of professionalism in the mid-eighteenth-century British Army, most younger officers had formed whatever expertise they possessed through studying manuals, guidebooks, and historical works by ancient and modern authors such as Thucydides, Caesar, Vegetius, and Humphrey Bland, whose Treatise of Military Discipline, first published in 1727, was the unofficial guide to basic drill and maneuver for young officers. The officers’ own lack of formal training, along with their mechanistic daily regimens, prevented them from achieving competency much beyond the level of basic training that they were expected to perfect in their soldiers. While some senior officers had tasted battle, the first test of combat leadership for many of the junior officers or subalterns came on the banks of the Monongahela.[1]

Despite the lack of battlefield experience, King George II, the Duke of Cumberland, and Braddock were confident that the “professionalism” of the regular troops would be enough to oust French forces (Troupes de la Marine, Canadian militia, and Native American auxiliaries from the Ohio River Valley and Great Lakes) from Fort Duquesne.

The first break from Vegetius’s influence and British army doctrine in the Age of Enlightenment occurred before the campaigns of 1755 even commenced. The 44th and 48th Regiments of Foot were understrength and carried with them to North America roughly 500 men each. To raise their numbers to full battalion strength – 700 men – the units were augmented with colonial levies from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Already lacking in experience, the addition of colonial militiamen (militias were the largest recruiting pools in the colonies) did nothing but delegitimize the “professionalism” of the two regiments. The levies, who previously only drilled once every few months or so with their respective militias, were expected to conduct themselves like British regular soldiers.

Along with the colonists augmented into the regiments of foot, the task of capturing the various French strongholds in Nova Scotia and along Lakes Champlain and Ontario that summer was given to non-regular troops. To subdue the French garrisons, small armies of colonial provincial soldiers were recruited in New England, New Jersey, and New York. Braddock’s army, too, was supplemented with provincials from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Carolinas. The expeditionary force ordered to bag Fort Saint-Frédéric (Crown Point) along Lake Champlain was composed of 3,000 provincial troops with only one British regular, Captain William Eyre of the 44th Regiment of Foot, serving among them.[2] Again, these provincial regiments were entirely green (other than some veterans of various frontier services and the Louisbourg Expedition of 1745) and made up of levies and volunteers drawn predominantly from local militias. Also, attached to these armies were Native American auxiliaries, whose style of warfare was completely foreign to regular troops and far from professional. Service against and alongside these “savages” was the first exposure to irregular warfare in North America that His Majesty’s soldiers would receive. Vegetius believed that heavy reliance on auxiliaries, in this case Native Americans, colonial provincials, and colonial troops on the British military establishment, was detrimental to the performance and survival of professional units and overall cohesion.[3]

For the most part, the colonial provincials held their own on the battlefield against French forces, more so than the British regulars did early in the French and Indian War. They obtained victories in Nova Scotia, along the southern shore of Lake George in New York, and diligently defended the frontier against French and Indian raids. However, the colonists could never truly mesh with the regulars from Great Britain. British officers held them in contempt. “The Americans,” Brigadier General James Wolfe declared, “are in general the dirtiest most contemptible cowardly dogs that you can conceive. There is no depending on them in action. They fall down dead in their own dirt and desert by battalions, officers and all. Such rascals as those are rather an encumbrance than any real strength to an army.”[4]

Officers serving in North America and British authorities in London, like William Pitt, began to recognize the importance in 1758 of separating from the seemingly arrogant professionalism that the British Army had so dearly held on to. The conflict being fought in the colonies was not a conventional European war. Even as a world war was being waged elsewhere around the globe, it became evident that something needed to change if His Majesty King George II was to claim North America as his own. William Pitt, Leader of the House of Commons and Secretary of State for the Southern Department, put forth and instituted an agenda that shifted the sole focus on winning with professional soldiers in North America to building a substantial military force consisting of a majority of colonists. He ordered 20,000 colonists to be levied or recruited into provincial units. The crown would supply them the required arms, ammunition, tents, and provisions, and would reimburse the colonial assemblies for the costs of raising, clothing and paying the men. In response to this proposal, the colonies mustered over 23,000 troops for the upcoming 1758 campaigns.[5] These men complimented the 20,000 British regulars dispatched to the colonies that year. At close glance, the measure instituted by Pitt’s administration resembled France’s levée en masse in 1793 on a smaller scale.[6] This was an early example of the departure from Vegetius’s classical reliance on professional soldiers in favor of larger armies consisting of men serving shorter terms of enlistment. Discipline for these men was mild and their training was limited. “Men,” one of Vegetius’s general maxims read, “must be sufficiently tried before they are led against the enemy.”[7] Quality was displaced by quantity. This was not the only aspect of the British Army that was transforming in the wilderness of North America. The nature of the conflict was forcing a change in the way the war was being waged as well.

Edward Braddock’s expeditionary force of regulars and provincials crossed the Monongahela River on the morning of July 9, 1755 and precipitated a departure from Vegetius and Humphrey Bland’s strategic, operational, and tactical influence. Less than ten miles outside of Fort Duquesne, the 1,400-man column engaged and was easily defeated by a smaller force of Canadians and Indians fighting in an irregular manner. Braddock’s Defeat signaled an end to England’s classical style of linear warfare – it had officially met its match and was countered. Vegetius and Bland’s disciplined closed-rank formations had faltered. Vegetius wrote that, “The nature of the ground is often of more consequence than courage.”[8] However, this referred to terrain and its effect on the seven linear formations that Vegetius had presented. General engagements in Europe did not take place in thick vegetation. Maneuvering, let alone fighting, in closed-ranks was nearly impossible to accomplish smoothly in North America. As Braddock’s army had learned along the banks of the Monongahela, His Majesty’s Forces needed to adapt to the current conditions and nature of warfare in the colonies. To do so, officers needed to adjust tactically and borrow from the colonists and their Native American auxiliaries who were accustomed to loose formations and irregular warfare. Adapting meant completely altering preconceived tactical doctrine.

wounding of general braddock

The Wounding of Edward Braddock at the Battle of the Monongahela, July 9, 1755

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What it Means to Wear the Green

This St. Patrick’s Day millions of people around the world will wear green and celebrate the Irish holiday.  However there was a time when wearing the color green in Ireland could be punishable by death.

In the wake of the American Revolution, revolutions and rebellions began to breakout across Europe.  While much has been written on how the American Revolution helped inspire the epic and violent French Revolution in 1789, the Irish rebellion of 1798 has largely been forgotten.


One of the green banners carried by Irish rebels in 1798.  This one uses a phrase common in the American Revolution.

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Leaving Vegetius Behind: The British Army’s Departure from Classical Military Influence (1754-1783) – Part 1

No other classical text had more of an influence on princes and young officers of the 18th century than Flavius Vegetius’s De Re Militari. For centuries, the ancient Roman manual on the art of war inspired men to professionalize the militaries of Europe. Standing armies were formed to fight for King and Country. Officers whipped their men into shape, drilling and disciplining by the book. As conflicts erupted throughout the world, the British armies took to the field waging war over royal successions. They emerged as a dominant force on the European continent. Vegetius continued to influence the conduct of His Majesty’s Forces and it appeared as if his principles were to become a mainstay in British military doctrine. Then, as the second half of the 18th century began, tension between England and France over colonial possessions in North America boiled over. By the spring of 1754, armed conflict had ignited an undeclared war in western Pennsylvania. Less than a year later two royal regiments (the 44th and 48th Regiments of Foot) had left Ireland and disembarked in the colony of Virginia.[1] In North America they were confronted by a different way of war – an unconventional one. Would Vegetius’s principles and the doctrine he influenced continue to remain true? Or could only a departure from his art and science of war prepare England’s forces to combat the new threat?  War does not change, but warfare does, and Vegetius’s classical influence began to fall out of favor.

This two-part essay will demonstrate that Vegetius’s military influence on the British Army officially began to diminish during the French and Indian and American Revolutionary Wars (1754-1783). To do so, this essay will analyze Vegetius’s initial influence on England’s military thinkers and officers during the Age of Enlightenment. It will then examine why the departure from this classical military theory and science was necessary and how it transformed the way that the British Army approached war at the moral and physical levels. It will then summarize and conclude.

Flavius Vegetius Renatus was a high-ranking official in the Roman Empire during the 4th century. It is quite possible that he served in some sort of financial position for the court which would have given him insight into military matters.[2] He was not a soldier, and he approached the art of war as a historian. When compiling his most famous work on Roman military institutions he desired to write a treatise, “for public use, [regarding] the instructions and observations of our old historians of military affairs, or those who wrote expressly concerning them … to exhibit in some order the peculiar customs and usages of the ancients….”[3] Vegetius began writing in the late 4th century during a time of decline for the Roman military. He had hoped that the Emperor would accept his work as a set of mere suggestions, or precedents demonstrated by the “ancients.” While it had not been used widely by his contemporaries, his treatise, On Roman Military Matters (De Re Militari), became a crucial piece of military thought and theory in Europe centuries later.

Flavius Vegetius’s field manual, On Roman Military Matters, written around 386 A.D., offered its readers a glimpse into the discipline and organization, and weapons and tactics utilized by the Roman Legions.[4] Through the medieval period in Europe, Vegetius’s book on the art of war served as an essential part of any prince’s military education. According to Dr. Charles S. Oliviero of Norwich University, “Until Clausewitz’s Vom Kriege appeared in 1832 to guide those who would understand the nature of Napoleonic warfare, no single writer in the West was more influential than Roman historian and writer Flavius Vegetius Renatus.”[5] On Roman Military Matters laid the groundwork for maintaining a professional standing army through discipline, organization, training, and administration. It also provided 26 chapters on strategy, tactics, and the principles of war, which were widely read and implemented by rulers and officers. The various tactical movements listed greatly influenced linear formations and battlefield maneuvering, which evolved to accommodate new weapons technology as time went on. Following the Renaissance, his influence widely reemerged in the 18th century at the onset of the Age of Enlightenment in Europe.

The Age of Enlightenment brought on a period in Europe known as the Military Enlightenment as well. According to historian John Lynn, “The Military Enlightenment followed the program of the broader Enlightenment, which sought to pattern study and knowledge after the natural sciences. By doing so it hoped to provide simple but fundamental, almost Newtonian, empirical truths, even in the realms of human psychology and conduct. Science seemed basic to all understanding.”[6] Military thinkers and officers turned to classical texts for direction in organization and tactics. Operating in compact linear formations, the geometric nature of a 18th century battlefield was perceived to be scientific. The commanding officer was required to possess a certain type of genius, but nearly everything on a battlefield could be measured and predicted. Antoine-Henri Jomini carried this belief into the 19th century, but before his famous theories presented in The Art of War were published, European officers turned to earlier works in order to better understand the principles of war and warfare.

It was believed by many military reformers in Europe that Vegetius offered these tactical principles. “Vegetius,” John Lynn described, “… inspired such military advances as battalion organization, firing by countermarch, and marching in step. This process was a later phase of that earlier intellectual phenomenon, the Renaissance.”[7] Book III of On Roman Military Matters offered guidance in tactics for linear style formations (seven possible tactical formations to be exact). The closed ranks that the Roman Legions maneuvered in were meant to instill discipline by not allowing any room for men to turn and run or fall out of order. Again, these formations influenced a geometrical view of the battlefield. From afar a battlefield would resemble a series of thick and thin lines moving back and forth against each other. These lines could be turned at various angles and degrees to meet threats coming from any direction. It became easier for officers to control and command their men if they could remain in a tight-packed linear formation. This was not a simple task, but with properly educated men at the helm, and disciplined troops on the ground, it became more easily quantifiable and predictable. In the 18th century, war and warfare were viewed as a profession in their own right.


Battle of Fontenoy, 1745, a classic example of a linear engagement

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Women Speaking Softly: Female Voices of the Boston Massacre

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Katie Turner Getty

“Fire! Fire! You dare not fire!” “Cowardly rascals!” “Lobsters!”

Shouts pierced the icy stillness of the night as a raucous crowd gathered in Boston’s King Street on the night of March 5, 1770. With their voices carrying through the wintry air all the way to Long Wharf, the crowd hurled insults at eight British soldiers and their captain. The soldiers’ muskets rattled as snowballs, oyster shells, and chunks of ice lobbed by the unruly crowd rained down upon them.


Fifth Victim is the sketch of the coffin of Patrick Carr, published in the Boston-Gazette and Country Journal on19 March 1770.

The soldiers shot eleven townspeople that night. Three died in the snow where they stood. Two more would later die from their wounds. The remaining six would survive. All of the victims were male.

Documentary evidence shows that the crowd in King Street on the night of the Boston Massacre was overwhelmingly male. The crowd was variously described as “mostly boys and youngsters”, “near 200 boys and men”, “a parcel of Rude boys”, and “chiefly consisting of boys and lads”.[1] Continue reading

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ERW Weekender: National Museum of the Marine Corps

Nestled in Northern Virginia between Interstate 95 and Marine Corps Base Quantico is the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Opened in 2006 after two years of construction, the impressive building and exhibits therein, detail the history of the Marines from their founding up to the present-day conflicts. In fact new exhibits about the latest combat operations are currently in the works.


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