“Rev War Roundatble with ERW” Discusses “The Cabinet” with Dr. Lindsay Chervinksy

George Washington’s first presidential cabinet included many luminaries of the American Revolutionary era; Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State and Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury to just name two. When studying the formation of the present United States government and the creation of cabinets that serve the president, we tend to gloss over it, as a sort of bygone conclusion, that this was a natural product out of this creation.

A closer reading of the United States Constitution, however, does not include the executive branch having a cabinet of secretaries to assist the president. George Washington, as first president, was entirely on his own in creating one, and the first cabinet meeting was not called into session until two and a half years into his first term.

The creation of this American institution is the basis of this week’s “Rev War Revelry” as Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes historian and author Dr. Lindsay Chervinsky as she discusses the history in and surrounding her publication, The Cabinet, George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution.

When discussing the importance of the cabinet, Chervinsky said:

“The best way to better understand the creation of the presidency, presidential leadership, or Washington’s legacy is through the cabinet.”

But this story isn’t just one about the early Founding Era. As Chervinsky writes in her work, “we can’t evaluate the cabinet without examining Washington’s use of councils of war from the Revolution. He developed critical management strategies in the councils that he replicated as president. The war shaped Washington as president.”

Chervinsky is an early American historian and is currently the Scholar-in-Residence at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies at Iona College and a Senior Fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies. In addition, she is teaches courses on the presidency at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs.

For a sneak peak into the book and its history, click here to access Chervinsky’s talk at the Virginia Historical Society.

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Augustin Mottin De La Balme’s Disastrous Detroit Campaign, Autumn 1780

Junction of Saint Mary’s, Saint Joseph’s, and Maumee Rivers/Kekionga (Indiana Historical Society)

The Revolutionary War has more than its share of adventurers, rogues, soldiers-of-fortune, and risk-takers.  Augustin Mottin De La Balme combined all these characteristics in his person.  In November 1780, they brought the Frenchman and his soldiers to a horrible end outside the Miami Village of Kekionga, near the confluence of the Saint Joseph, Saint Mary’s, and Maumee Rivers in modern Fort Wayne, Indiana.

La Balme was born in France in 1736, entered the Gendarmerie in 1757, served in the seven Years War, gained experience in the cavalry, received an army appointment in 1763, and retired with a pension in 1773.  He wrote several books on cavalry training and tactics, but finding his fortunes stalled, left for America in 1777 with a letter of introduction from Benjamin Franklin, just one more French officer seeking rank, advancement, and his fortune in the war against Great Britain.[i]  Major General William Heath, who met him in Boston, wrote Washington, “We swarm with French Officers at this Place, Two arrived in the Ship on Sunday at this Place  They are much Superior to any that I have as yet Seen, One is an Engineer The other a Captain of Cavalry, They are Gentlemen of Education, Sense and Genius, The Captain has with him Two Treatises on the Discipline and management of the Horse, written by himself, and much Approved by all the Generals in the French Service.”[ii]  Despite a glut of would-be foreign officers, La Balme received a commission as a Lieutenant Colonel and then Colonel and Inspector General of Cavalry.  Dissatisfied with the appointment, he resigned, focused his attention on mobilizing Frenchmen still living in North America, and kept petitioning Congress to find useful work for him.  Eventually, Congress tried to pay him off and send him home, but the French officer stayed, trying his hand at various schemes to contribute, including mobilizing Indians in Maine to attack the British.  That short-lived campaign accomplished nothing, but resulted in La Balme’s capture and eventual escape.[iii]

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“Rev War Roundtable with ERW” Brandywine Campaign

The largest, in terms of military forces deployed, engagement in the American Revolutionary War occurred on September 11, 1777 in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Battle of Brandywine was a pivotal moment in the British campaign that captured the patriot capital in Philadelphia. With the anniversary of the engagement happening the Friday before, the Emerging Revolutionary War crew will make this engagement and campaign the focal point of Sunday’s “Rev War Roundtable with ERW.”

Joining the “Rev War Revelry” this Sunday, at 7pm on Emerging Revolutionary War’s Facebook page will be Michael C. Harris, historian and author of Brandywine: A History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777, which was published and is available for purchase by Savas Beatie. Click here to order.

Besides authoring the history mentioned above, Harris has an upcoming release, on another important battle in Pennsylvania, Germantown, fought on October 4, 1777. Rumor on the street has it that he will be joining ERW at a future date to discuss this important battle and talk about his new book.

A bit of a background on Harris. He is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and the American Military University. He has worked for the National Park Service in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Fort Mott State Park in New Jersey, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission at Brandywine Battlefield. He has conducted tours and staff rides of many east coast battlefields. Michael is certified in secondary education and currently teaches in the Philadelphia region. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Michelle and son, Nathanael.

Although the battle lost Philadelphia for the patriots, Harris does not hold back on the culprit for the setback:

“Washington failed the army, the army did not fail Washington.”

To hear the reasoning behind that emphatic quote we hope you join us this Sunday!

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“Rev War Roundtable with ERW” Talks Treason & Benedict Arnold

Benedict Arnold, the mere mention of the name seems permanently intertwined with the word “treason.” His name has even made it into popular vernacular, being called a “Benedict Arnold” as an insult. Yet, there is more to the man than just that infamous moment along the banks of the Hudson River in West Point, New York in 1780.

Prior to that turning point, Arnold was one of the greatest battlefield leaders the Americans had at that rank. His inspiring leadership on the field of battle at Saratoga led to a climactic charge and one of the greatest monuments to a leader on any hallowed ground. He survived the cold and assaults in Canada in the winter of 1776 as well.

After being a turncoat he was a menace in Virginia in 1781, raiding in Richmond and the Tidewater of Virginia. One of ERW’s historians will discuss Arnold’s role in the state capital of Virginia.

A lot to unpack and that is why this Sunday, at 7pm, live on our Facebook page, Emerging Revolutionary War historians will be joined by Dr. Powell, who spoke on the French and Indian War with us back in June, to discuss Benedict Arnold. So, bring those pre-conceived notions but an open mind to fully appreciate Arnold. This “Rev War Revelry” will discuss the before reasons for, and the after of his switching allegiances.

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Preservation Victory at Short Hills Battlefield

Never heard of the battle of Short Hills, NJ? That’s’ not surprising, but its finally getting some recognition. It was the largest engagement since Princeton five months earlier, and was one of the first battles for the newly reorganized Continental Army.

In June, 1777 the main American force of about 8,000 was camped at Quibbletown in Middlesex County, not far from Perth Amboy and Staten Island, both occupied by the British.

British forces under General Cornwallis left Perth Amboy at one o’clock in the morning on June 25, 1777. They engaged the Americans in the Battle of Short Hills, near the modern Union/Middlesex County Line. Another column, led by General John Vaughan, accompanied by General William Howe, moved toward New Brunswick then turned north toward Scotch Plains by a more southerly route. They planned to destroy Stirling’s isolated division between the two wings, and force Washington into an engagement. Stirling had two brigades, Brigadier General Thomas Conway’s Pennsylvanians and Brigadier General William Maxwell’s New Jersey troops. In all Stirling had about 1,798 men, more than 16,000 were bearing down on him.

Map of area of operations
(map by Edward Alexander)
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Arnold’s Treason: 240 Years Later – August 30, 1780

On August 30, 1780, Benedict Arnold fully committed to treason by accepting the final terms presented by Sir Henry Clinton regarding the plot to turn over the fortifications at West Point to the British. Arnold’s reply to a letter written on July 24 by Clinton’s adjutant-general and chief intelligence officer, Major John Andre, was the result of over a year’s worth of on and off negotiations between the two parties. At times it had appeared to Clinton and Andre that Arnold’s defection would not be as useful as they had hoped. The American general could not obtain a field command and could only offer intelligence that was of little value or already known. However, when Arnold assumed command of the fortifications in the Hudson Highlands, including West Point, in early August, the possibility of using his services to strike a crushing blow to the American cause became a reality.

The first mention of West Point in the correspondence between Arnold and Andre appeared in a letter written by the latter in late July 1779. Andre had inquired about the “procuring of an accurate plan,” of the post. Arnold, still serving as military governor of Philadelphia and away from Continental Army headquarters, was unable to answer this request. The following month, discussions began to stall and it would not be until the next year when the prospect of Arnold obtaining command of the Hudson Highland forts reinvigorated negotiations. By this time, it was far too late for Arnold to back out. The British high command had enough correspondence and gathered intelligence from the “American Hannibal” to expose him as a traitor. Arnold knew this as well, which is why his terms for defecting and surrendering a large body of American troops and/or West Point hinged on Clinton promising him financial and personal security for himself and his new family (Peggy had given birth to their first son, Edward, in March 1780).

On July 24, 1780, Maj. Andre penned a letter to Arnold informing him that Gen. Clinton had agreed to his terms of a payment of £20,000 in exchange for the surrender of 3,000 men and the West Point fortifications. If he should be unable to accomplish this task, £10,000 was still offered for his efforts. The message did not arrive until a month later, but Arnold responded six days later under the alias “Gustavus,” and requested to set up a meeting in the near future with Andre. The dispatch never made it to the British. The courier tasked with delivering it grew suspicious of its content and instead carried it to Maj. Gen. Samuel Parsons, his neighbor, on September 10. Parsons did not believe that the letter was anything to be concerned with, since it referred only to a Mr. Moore (Arnold) and Anderson (Andre) and such topics as market goods and speculators. The message was, of course, coded. Arnold had unknowingly dodged a major bullet.

Although his August 30 correspondence did not reach the British in New York City, Arnold scribbled out another message on September 3. This time, the letter was successfully delivered by Mary McCarthy, the wife of an escaped, but recaptured member of Saratoga’s “Convention Army,” Private Charles McCarthy, 9th Regiment of Foot.

Benedict Arnold, at one point the most famous hero of America’s revolutionary war, had officially entered his treasonous plot to turn over West Point and its garrison and defect to the British into its final stage. A little over three weeks later he would meet with Maj. Andre fifteen miles south of West Point near Haverstraw, New York.


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“Rev War Roundtable with ERW” Revolutionary Movies

The majority of military history enthusiasts, besides having a rows upon rows of books and publications gracing one room (or multiple rooms) of their dwellings, also house another collection.

Movies, films, documentaries that detail on screen the history of the American Revolution and the founding era of the United States. We can all name a few off the top of our head. We all have debated, either internally, with our significant others and family members, fellow history aficionados, or online about the historical accuracy or portrayal of those events.

This Sunday, join the Emerging Revolutionary War crew of historians in discussing this very same topic. During our historian happy hour, the ERW crew will debate, provide commentary and opinion, or possibly, just remonstrate on how the movie The Patriot is the most smeared film centered on American history that was ever produced.

With the slate of historians on tap for Sunday evening, you never know what will be debated and discussed. A safe bet is the mention of George Washington and who has depicted America’s founding father the most accurately on the big screen.

This Sunday, besides the beverage or choice, one may want to attain or make their favorite movie snack as well and tune in to ERW’s Facebook page for this lively “Rev War Revelry” discussion.

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Stumbling Upon Daniel Boone

Recently I had the chance to travel through Lexington, Kentucky en route to western Kentucky and to see the sites associated with the Fort Donelson campaign in the American Civil War.

In Frankfurt, Kentucky, Simon Bolivar Buckner, the Confederate general who surrendered the Tennessee fort, is buried.

Little did I know that a stone’s throw away, literally, is the grave of Daniel Boone. A fascinating find, if I would have researched a little more, I probably would have realized who all was buried in that cemetery in the state capital of Kentucky.

There, on a bluff, above the Kentucky River, lies Daniel and his wife Rebecca. The great frontiersman and pioneer who took settlers through the Cumberland Gap. One of the first folk heroes of American history.

Never know what you may stumble upon, when on a history excursion!

Pictures are below.

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“Rev War Roundtable with ERW” Looks West….

The majority of the study of the American Revolution centers on the main theaters of the war, chiefly east of the Appalachian Mountains and on the high seas. Obviously. Yet, what is considered today the Midwest or Great Lakes region saw action that had an impact on the outcome of the war, American independence, British occupation, and Native American life.

Termed “the west” this area encompassed the future states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas, and others along the Mississippi River and Great Lakes.

This area will be the focus of the next “Rev War Revelry” on Sunday, August 23 at 7 p.m. EST on our Facebook page. Join Emerging Revolutionary War historians, historian and Gabe Neville, of the 8th Virginia blog who will return for more discussion and revelry.

Joining us this evening will be another historian making his debut on “Rev War Revelry.” That newcomer is Joe Herron, Chief of Interpretation at George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes, Indiana.

So, grab your favorite drink and join us for an evening talking the likes of George Rogers Clark, Daniel Boone, and the personas and campaigns of the American west during the American Revolution.

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“He was everything an excellent officer should be…” Remembering Baron de Kalb

On this day, in 1780, Baron de Kalb, died at 59 years old. He had commanded admirably at the Battle of Camden, on August 16, 1780, overseeing the right of the American line where he received his mortal wounds.

Marker on the Camden Battlefield, although not in the “exact spot” that Baron de Kalb fell (author collection)

Below are a few excerpts about the German-born de Kalb.

On his deathbed, as noted by his aide, the Chevalier du Buysson, de Kalb wanted it known that:

His most affectionate compliments to all the officers and men of his division; he expressed the greatest satisfaction in the testimony given by the British army of the bravery of his troops….and the exemplary conduct of the whole division gave him an endearing sense of the merit of the troops he had the honor to command.

Although just a child, at seven years old, in August 1780, Mary Kershaw remembered the day de Kalb was buried in Camden. She lived until 1848 but would regale people with her reminiscences.

She also witnessed the burial of Baron de Kalb, with his sword at his side, between two British officers. It would later be found that “he lay, it seems, in the ‘custom of knighthood’ as last of his race, buried in his armor, that is to say his helmet, his sword, and his spurs were in the grave with him.

Original grave location for de Kalb in Camden (author collection)

General Horatio Gates, who commanded the American forces at Camden, penned the following to General George Washington, upon the news of de Kalb’s passing.

Too much honor cannot be paid by Congress to the memory of Baron de Kalb; he was everything an excellent officer should be, and in the cause of the United States he sacrificed his life.

Lastly, the French ambassador and former staff officer of de Kalb, the Duke de la Luzerne, wrote:

The fall of that excellent Officer, the Baron de Kalb–so much to be regretted by France and the United States…

Yet, the spirit of de Kalb. the resolute soldier, would live. Both within his former division and in the reconstituted Continental forces in the southern theater, as these regular army soldiers (and militia) would see the cause through to a successful conclusion.

For more information and the source of these excerpts please consult:

“De Kalb, One of the Revolutionary War’s Bravest Generals” by John Beakes

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