The War on the Pennsylvania Frontier: Part 5 of 5: The war between Virginia and Pennsylvania

Although both states were involved in the Revolutionary effort, Virginia and Pennsylvania were also at war with each other over land west of the Alleghenies. This territory had been claimed by both since the days of their early charters in the 1600s.

During the Revolution, the land claimed by both states had rival governments, courthouses and militias. Pennsylvania’s Hannas Town was the seat of its Westmoreland County, while Virginia’s West Augusta County was headquartered at Fort Pitt.


Throughout the 1770s, rival justices and other county officials were arrested and held in prison at either Hannas Town or Fort Pitt. Each claimed jurisdiction over the other, and saw the other as illegal.

At one point, Pennsylvania Governor John Penn wrote to Lord Dunmore of Virginia that he was “surprised” at Dunmore’s claim on the land, enclosing a map showing it firmly in Pennsylvania. Dunmore responded by denying the claim and explaining it was part of his colony. Penn then wrote that he “request your Lordship neither grant lands nor exercise the government of Virginia within these limits.”

Going in person to Fort Pitt, Dunmore issued a proclamation that, “whereas the Province of Pennsylvania has unduly laid claim to … His Majesty’s territory…. I do hereby in His Majesty’s name require & command all of His Majesty’s subjects West of Laurel Hill to pay a due respect to my Proclamation, strictly prohibiting the authority of Pennsylvania at their peril.”

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Review: Rick Atkinson, The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Joshua Shepherd to the blog who reviewed the book mentioned above. Short bio of Joshua is at the bottom of this post.

In recent years, there’s been a fortunate resurgence of interest in the Revolution and founding era. To meet the mounting demand for Revolutionary history, some of the nation’s most gifted popular authors have written highly successful volumes that cover the War for Independence and the Early Republic.

Some outstanding books have consequently gone to press, but, by and large, the publications have very often been biographies; occasionally, publishing houses introduce monographs that cover a single campaign. From professional circles, much of the new scholarly research focuses on the currently-vogue academic preference for social history. At least in recent decades, the relative paucity of military history has left an appreciable gap in the historiography of the Revolution. With the release of The British Are Coming, author Rick Atkinson has met a vital need for an up-to-date and comprehensive military history of the American Revolution.

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Following Washington

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Terry Rensel.

I despise driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike, so for my drive from Fredericksburg, Virginia to Erie, Pennsylvania to visit family for Thanksgiving I decide to go cross-country to Cumberland, Maryland and then play it by ear from there. As I realized that I was going to be close to Fort Necessity, I decided to make that a stop since I’ve never been there, then see what the day held.

Although a child of NW Pennsylvania, and getting plenty of young George Washington in school, Fort Necessity was a place that I have never been before. It appealed to both my interest in, and desire to visit as many, National Park Service sites as possible. I also have an interest in travelling historic roads, so the fact that US 40, the National Road, was included made it a bit of a two-for for me.

I knew that Fort Necessity itself was a small fortification, I had no idea just how small until I saw it with my own eyes. I can’t believe that this unassuming stockade was the place was a place where the opening acts of the French and Indian War occurred.

Fort Necessity from treeline

The National Park Service has signage, and recently planted trees, where the historic 1754 tree line was. There wasn’t much room for maneuver. The Visitor Center isn’t a very large building, but their exhibits were fantastic. Along with battle related items, there is also a series of items and interpretation for the National Road.

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War on the Pennsylvania Frontier: Part 4 of 5: Hanna's Town

Just north of Greensburg, PA, about twenty five miles from Pittsburgh, is the site of the Westmoreland County Courthouse at Hanna’s Town. The settlement included a few log buildings and was a gathering point for militia throughout the Revolution.

Robert Hanna settled here in 1773 and the first county court for Westmoreland County met here that April. It is thought to be the first courthouse west of the Allegheny Mountains. The village that sprung up straddled the 1758 Forbes Road, built by British troops during the French and Indian War and now a major route for settlers to the region.

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ERW Weekender: Remember Paoli!

On the night of September 20, 1777, while encamped in Chester County, PA just outside Philadelphia, a division of American soldiers was defeated in a swift surprise attack by a slightly smaller British force. American propagandists, in an effort to galvanize Patriot support, would make the most of this encounter to show the British Army as overly brutal and bloodthirsty. On the foggy morning of December 9, 2019, members of the ERW paid a call on this battle site; Paoli Battlefield Historical Park.

American Camp

Paoli Battlefield Historical Park

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Annis Boudinot Stockton, Mythmaking, and the American Revolution (cont.)

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Blake McGready for part two of the series. To read part one, click here.

While her poetry avoided wartime setbacks and conjured stories of revolutionary unity, Stockton’s poems did confront the violent realities of what she called “a most cruel and eventful war”. Her choice allusions demonstrate how, in her mind, wartime violence bound the revolutionaries together. Following the death of General Joseph Warren at the battle of Bunker Hill she lamented, “That heart, which, studious of his countries good / Held up her rights and seal’d them with his blood!” In 1776 Stockton wrote of revolutionary soldiers who “fought and bled to save their native land / From bowing to a tyrant’s stern command,” and honored great men dying on battlefields “Made fertile by the blood of heroes slain.” Whereas historians have noted how the war’s violence was often deliberately excluded from the popular imagination, by contrast, Stockton’s war and violence were inseparable.[i]

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War on the Pennsylvania Frontier: Part 3 of 5: Forts of the Southwest

The Southwestern corner of Pennsylvania was perhaps the most isolated in the state. It was also a region claimed by both Virginia and Pennsylvania. Far removed from assistance from the eastern centers of population, they had to rely on their own resolve for defense.

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