“Old Ironsides” To Set Sail Again!

Happen to be around Boston this weekend? Or live within traveling distance? Check out the special event happening this weekend from Sunday, July 23rd through Monday, July 24th at the U.S.S. Constitution Museum and Charlestown Navy Yard.

The U.S.S. Constitution, the oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat will set sail again. Launched in 1797 and named by President George Washington, the vessel is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate. She has been dry-docked since May 18, 2015 but will return to the water on July 23rd.

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“Old Ironsides” the U.S.S. Constitution, photo taken April 2016 (author collection)

The event, co-sponsored with the National Parks of Boston will have a full-plate of free, family-fun events starting at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday and continuing into the morning hours of Monday.

For a full-listing of these events, including information about the museum, and answers to a few frequently answered questions, click here.

For those that cannot make it live to the re-launch, the event will be live on Facebook video streams at 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. along with live video streams throughout the night of the major events. Check out the Facebook site for the museum by clicking here.

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The Battle of Groton Heights, September 6, 1781: The Fort Griswold Massacre

Part One

Benedict Arnold

Benedict Arnold

After turning coat, Benedict Arnold received a commission as a brigadier general in the British army as part of the deal that he made in order to betray his country.

In August 1781, George Washington decided to shift forces in order to attack the army of Lt. Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis in Virginia. Washington began pulling troops from the New York area. Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander-in-chief in America, realized on September 2 that Washington’s tactics had deceived him, leaving him unable to mobilize quickly enough to help Cornwallis. Further, there was still a significant force of Continentals facing him in front of New York, and Clinton did not feel that he could detach troops to reinforce Cornwallis as a result.

Sir Henry ClintonInstead, Clinton decided to launch a raid into Connecticut in the hope of forcing Washington to respond. Clinton intended that this be a raid, but he also recognized that New London could be used as a permanent base of operations into the interior of New England. Clinton appointed Arnold to command the raid because he was from Connecticut and knew the terrain.

Arnold commanded about 1,700 British solders, divided into two battalions. Lt. Col. Edmund Eyre commanded a battalion consisting of the 40th and 54th Regiments of Foot and Cortland Skinner’s New Jersey Volunteers, a Loyalist unit. Arnold himself commanded the other battalion, made up of the 38th Regiment of Foot and various Loyalist units, including the Loyal American Regiment and Arnold’s American Legion. Arnold also had about 100 Hessian Jägers, and three six-pound guns. This was a formidable force anchored by the three Regular regiments. Continue reading

Posted in Armies, Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, British Leadership, Campaigns, Northern Theater, Personalities, Revolutionary War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

American Revolutionary Era Reading Lists

Recently, a few emails have appeared in the Emerging Revolutionary War (ERW) email detailing lists of books to read on the American Revolutionary Era. During the summer months, when large segments of the population hit the road for vacations, ERW thought a post about what books to nab for that trip would be a helpful tidbit of information.

Museum of the American RevolutionOne of the emails was from our friends at The Museum of the American Revolution and was geared toward younger audiences. The books were geared toward different age groups, bracketed for 12 years and up, ages 7 to 12 years, and then ages 2 to 7. A final category was for graphic novels.

Reaching younger enthusiasts is the goal of many preservation and/or historic sites and this list is a great way to get them involved during the summer months. Check out the entire list here.

Lastly, if so inclined, the Museum sends out a “Read the Revolution” email list via their website to read reviews of applicable books.

The other email was our friends at the Journal of the American Revolution and was geared toward adults as it tabulated “The 100 Best American Revolution Books of All Time.” The list is broken down into different categories, including but limited to, “all-in-one” histories, people, politics, and conflict and war.

Journal of the American Revolution

For the complete listing, click here. How many have you read? What has been your favorite?

Happy Reading!

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Standing in the Room Where American Was Born

Indep Hall WindowAs I stood in Independence Hall, in the room where the Founders debated the Declaration of Independence, I suddenly started thinking of the opening scene from the musical 1776, when John Adams cries for independence while everyone else complains about either the heat or the flies. “Won’t somebody open up a window?” one of the delegates pleads. “Too many flies!” others respond, shouting him down. Adams is advocating the most lofty of ideas but everyone else is mired in their own personal discomfort. What a great metaphor.

To stand in that room where Adams and the other delegates worked was a privilege. The tour group consisted of 50 people or so, so there was no opportunity for quiet reflection. There was no sublime, transcendent moment of awe or epiphany. The tour guide could not even tell me which table Adams sat at except “toward the back over here somewhere.”  Continue reading

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ERW Weekender: Cornwallis House

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Cornwallis House, Winnsboro, South Carolina

In the quaint South Carolina town of Winnsboro, a few miles off of current Interstate-77 sites a two-story stands one of the oldest dwellings in a town founded by Richard Winn of Virginia a few years before the start of the American Revolution.

Yet, it was during those hostilities that one of the more famous military leaders came to “Winnsborough” as it was sometimes listed on maps of the time. His name, Lord Charles Cornwallis, the overall commander of British forces in the Southern Colonies. He would use the house during the winter of 1780-1781.

The house itself is an enigma. The structure dates to pre-1776 obviously, but the builder and owner of the house is still not known. Yet, it is well document that the house did serve during the labeled “winter of discontent” for the British and Cornwallis.

Across the street resides the Mount Zion Institute which became quarters for British soldiers during that winter of 1780-1781.

After the conflict the property and house was deeded to Captain John Buchanan, a veteran of the American Revolution. Buchanan was part of the welcoming party for the Marquis de Lafayette when the Frenchman landed at Georgetown, South Carolina.

Although not open to the public, special requests will be entertained. Click here for the link below for more information on the house and also who to contact for those special arrangements.

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Fort Ticonderoga’s 2017 War College of the Seven Years’ War (and a Quick Trip through Carillon Battlefield)

Several weeks ago I was fortunate enough to take part in Fort Ticonderoga’s twenty-second annual War College of the Seven Years’ War as a guest author. This was my first experience attending the War College, and I can confidently say that I plan on going again. The three day symposium took place from Friday, May 19, to Sunday, May 21, and consisted of lectures, book signings, and even a tour of some of the fort’s awe-inspiring artillery collection on display throughout the complex by curator Matthew Keagle. If you have not visited Fort Ticonderoga before, their massive inventory of 17th and 18th century cannon is well worth the visit alone. In fact, this August the staff and outside historians and interpreters will be conducting a symposium entitled, “New Perspectives on the ‘Last Argument of Kings’: A Ticonderoga Seminar on 18th-Century Artillery.” You can access the schedule and more information here.  I am saving up my pennies right now to go!

The War College’s Saturday and Sunday lecture lineups were superb. They included several lectures that focused on the colony of New France and France’s regular soldiers deployed in North America. I consider myself a French and Indian War historian, but I have never paid much attention to what transpired along the Mississippi River during the conflict. It is easy to forget sometimes that France’s claims on the continent included not just Canada, but south down the Mississippi River all the way to Louisiana. This region seems too far away from everything else to have served an important role during the war, but that simply was not the case. Thanks to Joseph Gagne (Laval University) and David MacDonald (Illinois State University, retired), I was introduced to events transpiring in the Illinois Country and Louisiana.

Other lectures were also given focusing on The Cherokee War (Jessica Wallace, Georgia College and State University) and even smallpox. David Kelton, University of Kansas, shared with us his work entitled, “Disease Diplomacy: How Rumors of Smallpox, Outbreaks, and Diabolical Schemes Shaped the Course of Empire in North America, 1755-1764.” His arguments targeted the myths of biological warfare conducted by the English against Native Americans. Another talk that I was excited for (it had a whole lot to do with my first book I authored) was a look at Ephraim Williams and the Bloody Morning Scout during the Battle of Lake George, presented by Gary Shattuck. Gary’s conclusions and judgements were in line with my own. He did not believe that Colonel Williams blundered his way into an ambush that left him and scores of men under him dead. It is always nice to see when historians reassess the decisions made and roles played by those who have been judged poorly by history. The photographs used in the presentation of the battlefield today were also very useful. Shattuck had a good eye for the terrain and gave me the best look at where the positions held by Baron de Dieskau’s French Regulars, Canadian militia, and Native Allies, in his opinion, most likely were (of course this is still up for debate).

Unfortunately, I needed to leave early and missed Sunday’s talks, which included Brady Crytzer discussing his new book on the Kittanning Raid of 1756, as well as a look at Cadwallader Colden, a colonial statesman from New York, and his experiences during the French and Indian War by John Dixon (College of Staten Island).  Matthew Keagle also conducted a talk on the dress and traditions of light infantrymen. I missed a good day.

On my way out of Fort Ticonderoga I stopped off at one of my favorite battlefields. Just outside the fort complex down the exit road is the Carillon battlefield, where on July 8, 1758, a massive British and provincial force under the command of James Abercromby continuously assaulted a fortified line of earthworks and abatis held by a much smaller French army under the leadership of the Marquis de Montcalm. By day’s end the French had emerged victorious, inflicting over 2,000 casualties within Abercromby’s force. The 42nd Regiment of Foot (The Black Watch), alone, lost well over 600 men. It was the bloodiest military engagement fought in North America prior to the Civil War, yet it is widely forgotten.

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Carillon Battlefield, Fort Ticonderoga, NY. Remnants of the French earthworks are visible in front of the treeline.

Today, the Carillon Battlefield is small, or at least the area that is easily accessible to the public is. Despite this, portions of Montcalm’s earthworks still remain (rebuilt by future armies making their way to the Heights of Carillon) and the spot is dotted with several monuments, including one for the Black Watch, as well as a reconstructed cross to mimic the one placed along the French lines by Montcalm to memorialize his victory and honor his men’s courage against such great odds. Other than this tiny open area, the rest of the battlefield is covered with a dense thicket making it difficult to explore. However, it is extremely peaceful and serene. If you look to the woods with your mind’s eye, you can almost see the waves of scarlet red moving relentlessly towards your position, and hear the shriek of the bagpipes, the crack of the drummer’s cadence, the rattling of musket fire, and the yells of men charging towards a probable death.

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Monument to the 42nd Regiment of Foot, “The Black Watch,” dedicated in 1997.

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Fields just outside the exit of Carillon Battlefield and Fort Ticonderoga, where Abercromby’s men formed their ranks and repeatedly advanced against Montcalm’s fortified line.

Fort Ticonderoga and the Carillon Battlefield are a must-see for any history buff.

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ERW Weekender: Bunker Hill Monument & Museum

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Katie Turner Getty. 

Towering over Charlestown, Massachusetts, its foundation set in sacred battleground soil, the Bunker Hill Monument is a 221 foot obelisk commemorating the Battle of Bunker Hill. The cornerstone of the monument was laid by the Marquis De Lafayette in 1825, fifty years after the battle was fought on June 17, 1775.

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Bunker Hill Monument (author collection)

Although the land surrounding the monument has been greatly developed since the battle, visitors today can get still get a sense of the 18th-century landscape just by walking through Charlestown and climbing the hill to reach Monument Square. Approaching visitors are greeted by the statue of Colonel William Prescott, the gray granite of the monument serving as an impressive backdrop behind him. Continue reading

Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, British Leadership, Campaigns, Common Soldier, Memory, Monuments, National Park Service, Northern Theater, Preservation, Revolutionary War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment