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.
From our friends at the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond
Tour Leader – Dr. Patrick H. (Pat) Hannum, Professor, Joint Forces Staff College, National Defense University, Lt Col USMC (Ret)
This tour will visit three critically important Revolutionary War sites, in the modern Cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, in order to help inform the important events and explain how the Whig Government ousted the Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, and British military forces from the State of Virginia. These events largely unfolded in the fall of 1775 and culminated with the destruction of the City of Norfolk in early 1776. Strategically important, these events led to near uncontested Whig control of the State of Virginia for three and one-half years. The British defeat at Yorktown in October 1781 traces its roots to the critical decisions and decisive actions of the Whig Governments of Virginia and North Carolina in the fall of 1775. We will visit: Continue reading “Southside Revolutionary Virginia 1775 Tour – October 12, 2019”→
Doctor. Major General. President of the Provincial Congress. Author of political tracts. A true patriot. Forgotten.
All these words, plus many more, are titles that depict the life of Dr. Joseph Warren. However, the last term is most synonymous with the Massachusetts doctor who fell in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War. That last word, forgotten, is exactly what author and historian Christian Di Spigna is hoping to expunge with his new biography, Founding Martyr.
When writing a book, one of the most important initial aspects is picking a title. The author needs one that is expressive, attracts attention, but has some overall tie-in that provides a fitting capture of the essence of the book.
One of the advantages of writing history is the use of quotes. Let the participants, combatants, or witnesses of the event provide the context for a title. When one resonates, go with it!
With the recent publication, the co-author, Robert Orrison and myself bounced various potential titles off each other. Then we had a list of our favorites included in the initial information sheet sent to Ted Savas, of Savas Beatie, LLC, the publisher. Yet, one continued to stand out, as it was written in a diary by a British junior officer slightly more than a month before the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
The entire inscription is below:
“It is certain both sides were ripe for it, and a single blow would have occasioned the commencement of hostilities.” —Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie, Royal Welch Fusiliers, March 6, 1775.
Mackenzie’s uncanny foresight predicted the exact outcome of the fighting that erupted on April 19, 1775. With casualties suffered by both sides, the war of words and near-misses became a war of shot and shell.
Hostilities had commenced and we had a title. A Single Blow: The Battles of Lexington and Concord and the The Beginning of the American Revolution.
“the Country was an amazing strong one; full of Hills, Woods, stone Walls, & c., which the Rebels did not fail to take advantage of, for they were all lined with People who kept an incessant fire upon us…”
From the diary of Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie who was part of the 23rd Regiment–the Royal Welch Fusiliers that survived the ordeal of April 19, 1775. He would keep a diary until the early 1790’s and chronicled his experiences in the American Revolutionary War. His account on April 19, of the retreat from Concord is most descriptive. The British did not just take the brunt of the firing as the marched hurriedly back toward Boston and safety, but;
“as we did too upon them, but not with the same advantage, as they were so concealed there was hardly any seeing them: in this way we marched between 9 and 10 miles, their numbers increasing from all parts…”
The column was led by Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and had been tasked by General Thomas Gage, British military leader in North America, to root out the military supplies being stored in Concord by the colonials. The mission, albeit supposedly secretive, did not remain so for long, and the colonials got word out to the countryside. After initial firing at Lexington Green and then at the North Bridge in Concord, the British had to march back through the countryside, facing arriving militia and minute men.
“while ours was reducing by deaths, wounds, and fatigue; and we were totally surrounded with such an incessant fire as it is impossible to conceive; our ammunition was likewise near expended.”
Luckily, for Mackenzie and the other struggling British officers and rank-and-file, on a rise in the ground, outside the town of Menotomy, was a relief column, ready to provide a few moments’ respite.
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.
Instead, 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 “The Battle of Groton Heights, September 6, 1781: The Fort Griswold Massacre”→
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.
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 “ERW Weekender: Bunker Hill Monument & Museum”→
Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome back historian Katie Turner Getty. Biography of Ms. Getty is below the post.
On April 19, 1775, the placid farm of fifty-eight-year-old Jason Russell of Menotomy erupted into carnage when he, along with eleven other Americans, were shot and bayonetted by British soldiers in his home and yard.
As American militia and minutemen poured in from surrounding towns, the British—fatigued yet furious—found themselves under increasingly heavy musket fire. As they pulled back from Concord and retreated to Boston, the main column passed near Russell’s house which stood near the battle road. Russell had just returned home after secreting his family at a nearby farm. Unbeknownst to him, American minutemen and British soldiers would soon converge upon his property and a desperate battle would occur within the walls of his own house.
Earlier that day, twenty-six-year-old Gideon Foster had set off from Danvers with a company of minutemen. The men had set a scorching pace and made the sixteen mile journey to Menotomy in four hours, running half the way. Upon arriving, Foster’s men joined others from Lynn, Beverly, Salem, Dedham, and Needham. Some took cover behind trees and others in Russell’s yard, where a breastwork was constructed out of shingles.
The men focused their attention on the approaching main column of British troops and fired upon them. Capt. Israel Hutchinson, a seasoned French and Indian War veteran, warned that flank-guards would likely be traversing the fields alongside the road, helping the main column to pass unmolested. But before the men could reconsider their position or move to a more defensible location, the flank-guard was upon them, trapping the men against the main column.
In a frantic search for cover, many of the men bolted into Russell’s house. Jason Russell, too, attempted to dash inside but was slowed by his lame leg. He was shot twice and fell on his doorstep. The soldiers tore inside the house in hot pursuit of the men, bayonetting Jason Russell’s body eleven times as they passed.
Once inside the house, the Americans had no choice but to fight for their lives in rooms with no egress, in very close quarters, against raging, bayonet-wielding soldiers. It was a bloodbath. With two rooms on the bottom floor, a narrow stairwell, and two rooms on the top floor, Jason Russell’s house offered very little refuge. Soldiers outside the house hailed musket fire into the windows.
With nowhere else to go, several men rushed into the cellar. What at first would seem to be an ill-advised hiding spot turned out to be the only sanctuary that Russell’s home could offer. Taking position near the bottom of the stairs, the men raised their muskets and shot dead the first soldier who descended. Any other soldiers who attempted to follow were met with blazing musket fire. Holes left by musket balls are still visible in the stairwell, attesting to the firestorm.
Soon, the house grew quiet. All of the men who had sought safety in the house had been killed, with the exception of the men who took refuge in the cellar. The British ransacked the house then left.
In 1835, sixty years after the bloodbath at Russell’s house, a memorial was erected in Danvers to commemorate the townsmen who lost their lives in Menotomy that day. Danvers lost the second highest number of men, after Lexington, and all of them at Jason Russell’s house. Foster, the commander of the company of minutemen who had ran halfway to Menotomy, was by then the last surviving Danvers veteran of the war. Aged eighty-six, he addressed the crowd assembled for the dedication of the monument and recounted the events of April 19th:
On that morning, more than one hundred of my townsmen hastened to the field of battle…ready to offer their lives on the altar of their liberties. Seven of those who thus started in the prime of life and vigor of manhood, ere that day’s sun descended in the west, were numbered with the dead.
Foster called the dedication of the memorial “One of the happiest days and most pleasing events of my life.”
In total, twelve Americans were killed at Jason Russell’s house. Jason’s wife, Elizabeth, returned home to find her husband dead. He and the other fallen Americans, their bodies riddled with musket balls and slashed by bayonets, had been laid out on the floor in the kitchen, the blood from their wounds pooling around them. Elizabeth later said that “the blood in the room was almost ankle deep”.
*Biography: Katie Turner Getty is a lawyer, history enthusiast, and lifelong resident of Boston. She holds an A.A. from Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown, Massachusetts, a B.A. in History from Wellesley College, and a J.D. from New England Law Boston. She can often be found exploring historic sites both on and off the Freedom Trail.
On February 1, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. join Emerging Revolutionary War’s Derek Maxfield for the launch of the “Historical Horizons Lecture Series” sponsored by the Genesee Community College History Club.
Two of the most important men in American History are John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. From the time they met in Philadelphia in 1775 until their deaths in 1826, these two men had a most fascinating relationship; much of the time it was one of admiration and love, but it was interrupted by a period of intense partisan strife that nearly ended the friendship. Come hear the intriguing story of how the friendship was restored.