First Shots

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Lexington Minuteman Statue , facing the route of the British advance (author collection)

We all have bucket list items that we want to check off in our lifetime. Some revolve around traveling, some may revolve around learning a new hobby or skill. We may have different categories of items. The last is true for me.

One of those categories was to see the first shots of the wars of the United States (okay and the French and Indian War, since that started the march toward independence, when looked at through the lens of history and distance). Continue reading

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Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, Campaigns, Emerging Civil War, Emerging Revolutionary War, Memory, Monuments, Revolutionary War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Women in War

As February turns to March, our friends at American Battlefield Trust (ABT), in honor of Women’s History Month, are starting a series on “Women in War.”

ABT

The objective of the initiative is to highlight the important role women have played in America’s conflicts, especially the wars that the Trust is actively trying to preserve the hallowed ground from. From the home-front to the front-lines, women were crucial to all aspects of the winning or sustaining the fight during the respective conflicts.

That got one historian at Emerging Revolutionary War thinking.

If you had to list the most influential women during the American Revolutionary War time period, who would top the list?

Feel free to comment below!

For information about the ABT’s month-long series click here.

Posted in Armies, Battlefields & Historic Places, Civilian, Emerging Revolutionary War, Memory, Revolutionary War | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

George Rogers Clark Recaptures Fort Sackville, Part II

Vincenes (Army Center of Military History)

Hamilton Surrenders Fort Sackville (U.S. Army Center for Military History)

By February 23, 1779–two hundred and forty years ago—Virginia Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark had marched his little army from the Mississippi across the flooded plains of what would become southern Illinois to the French town of Vincennes on the Wabash River, in modern Indiana.  His men were tired, hungry, and waterlogged, but they had made it safely across the Wabash and delivered themselves to the same shore as the town and Fort Sackville, then defended by the much-hated British Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton.  His river scouts had managed to find a small, dry hillock covered by a grove of trees and within sight of the town and Clark’s force, about 170 strong, lay in the grove drying their clothes by the sun, occasionally taking a wandering citizen from the town prisoner.   Clark later reported:

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George Rogers Clark Recaptures Fort Sackville, Part I

March to Vincennes (Wikimedia Commons)

March to Vincennes by Frederick Coffay Yohn, 1875-1933 (Wikimedia Commons–Most of Clark’s men would not have dressed in the blue uniforms visible here, but would have dressed in fur and buckskin like the individual in the middle of the picture.)

Last fall, I posted several pieces following British Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton’s campaign in the Illinois territory as seen through the eyes of Captain Norman MacLeod.  MacLeod led an advance party stuck with the logistical and diplomatic mission of moving 33,000 pounds of supplies and trade goods south from Detroit in order to mobilize the local Indian tribes as British allies.  Hamilton’s campaign culminated with the successful capture of Fort Sackville (Vincennes, IN) on December 17, 1778.  Since it’s the 240th anniversary of the campaign, I thought I’d continue the series by shifting to the American perspective, particularly that of Virginia Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark and one of his Captains, Joseph Bowman.  This is not a campaign history by any stretch.  It’s meant more to be considered in combination with portions of MacLeod’s diary that appeared last fall.  Taken together, they might give rise to a few different ideas about the Americans and British fighting the Revolution on the frontier.

Although he planned to recapture the entire Illinois territory, Hamilton decided to winter at Fort Sackville and resume his campaign in the spring.  He dismissed the bulk of his force, settling in at the fort with just under 100 men.  Normally, this would have been a prudent choice.  Hamilton did not expect Clark to retake the field until spring brought about the customary campaign season and dispersing his army eased the logistical burden of maintaining so many men idle in the wilderness.  Hamilton had under-estimated the meddle of his adversary.

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Posted in Armies, Battles, Campaigns, Militia (Patriot) Leadership, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Alexander Hamilton’s “First” Duel

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Lt. Col. Alexander Hamilton at Yorktown, VA by Alonzo Chapel

Alexander Hamilton has reappeared as a modern pop star with the wide success of the Broadway musical “Hamilton.” Due to this success, most people today know that Alexander Hamilton met his end in a duel with Aaron Burr on the banks of the Hudson River. But this was not Hamilton’s first involvement in a duel, nearly 26 years earlier Hamilton found himself embroiled in a feud with one of highest ranking Continental officers, Maj. Gen. Charles Lee.

It all started on June 28, 1778 at the Battle of Monmouth. The beginning of the battle had gone against the Americans and Lee, who was in command of the vanguard was ordering a retreat in front of the British. Washington, seeing the retreat rode ahead and encountered Lee. What was said between the men has been debated since that day, but what is not indisputable is that Lee took offense. Continue reading

Posted in Alexander Hamilton, Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, Continental Congress, Continental Leadership, Memory, Personalities, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Review: American Dialogue by Joseph Ellis

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American Dialogue-cover“The study of history is an ongoing conversation between past and present from which we all have much to learn,” write Joseph Ellis in his new book, American Dialogue: The Founders and Us. The book serves as Ellis’s attempt to sit with several of the Founders and carry on that conversation, with “us,” the readers, as spectators. As John Adams so often did with his own books, we can engage in the conversation by writing notes in the margins and underlining passages, and we can even read the original works of the Founders ourselves. Knowing they were writing as much to history as to each other, they left behind a rich documentary legacy.

Ellis’s book plumbs these writings to explore four salient points that trouble the American present. “By definition, all efforts to harvest the accumulated wisdom of the past must begin from a location in the present…” he admits. The present he writes from and that we read from, he says, is “inescapably shaped by our location in a divided America that is currently incapable of sustained argument and unsure of its destiny.” Continue reading

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Phillis Wheatley: American Poet

Phyllis Wheatley Book Frontspiece

Title Page from Phillis Wheatley’s Book of Poetry

The American Revolution was loaded with contradictions, perhaps none more glaring than the notion of fighting for individual liberty while slavery was so deeply embedded in the rebelling colonies.  To truly understand the American Revolution, it’s necessary to wrestle with that reality.  The stories of some individuals help shed light on the experience of enslaved Americans during the war.

Phillis Wheatley was born in West Africa, likely in 1753, and then imported into the British colonies in 1761.  John Wheatley of Boston purchased her to assist his wife Susanna and daughter Mary as a house servant.  Like many slaves, she was given the last name of her owners; her first may have come from the name of the ship that brought her across the Atlantic.  Susanna and Mary noticed something in young Phillis and taught her to read and write, introducing her to the Bible and religion.  She published her first poem in 1767 and the 1770 poem “An Elegiac Poem, on the Death of the Celebrated Divine George Whitefield,” gave her some degree of fame.

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