Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Karl G. Elsea
History can be fun; for example, when a war trophy in Sweden and the popular television series “Antiques Roadshow” can be combined to explain an American Revolutionary War legend. There are a number of books, articles, an actor impersonator, and even an U. S. Postal stamp from 1975 showing Peter Francisco carrying a cannon barrel to save it from falling into British hands at the Battle of Camden. Sadly, their stories of Peter carrying a barrel weighting 600 pounds, or even an amazing 1,100 pounds, are not close to true. Here is the likely story. The kind of barrel Peter actually carried is shown in the next picture. The barrel likely weighed between 200 and 300 pounds.
An original amusette is located at the Armémuseums’s magazine in Stockholm. This amusette was constructed in 1768 and captured by the Swedes in the battle at Berby in 1808. The following picture shows this amusette:
Like a modern-day Nathanael Greene or Edward Carrington, Andrew Waters spends his days trekking the waterways of the Carolina high country. Just like those famous military leaders, Andrew Waters does the surveying of these waterways and their tributaries for his day job; as a land and water conservationist.
During this career, Waters first learned about the “Race to the Dan” the pivotal retrograde movement in 1780 that saved Greene’s army from the pursuing British force under Lord Charles Cornwallis. Having the unique perspective from his training and an interest in the history of the time period, he had the perfect combination to pen a complete history of the “Race to the Dan.” Published by Westholme Publishing in October 2020, the title, To The End of the World, Nathanael Greene, Charles Cornwallis, and the Race to the Dan fills a much needed gap in the historiography of the the American Revolution in the southern theater.
This Sunday, at 7p.m. EDT, on Emerging Revolutionary War’s Facebook page, join us in an interview with Waters, discussing this book, Nathanael Greene’s leadership, and any questions you may have about this subject. Remember that favorite beverage and we look forward to you tuning as we welcome historian and author Andrew Waters to the next installment of the “Rev War Revelry.”
In the spring of 1778, General George Washington chose Major General Nathanael Greene to be the quartermaster general of the Continental army, replacing General Thomas Mifflin who had resigned the previous November. Greene was hesitant and wrote the quote that graces the title of this post. He was leery of giving up a field command to take a thankless job that faced a mountain of difficulties and was more administrative. From the start of his tenure in this important post, Greene brought about effective change. His never ending responsibilities included allocating resources, installing the right people into positions, and untangling contracts, transportation woes, and developing a concept, such as supply depots on potential campaign routes were vast improvements over what his predecessor accomplished.
Greene though yearned to return to an active field command and through his close connection to Washington along with his due diligence as quartermaster, he was assigned command in the southern theater. His assignment was to replace Major General Horatio Gates as the head of Continental forces after the latter’s defeat at Camden, South Carolina in August 1780. Greene’s role in this position is well-documented and outside the scope of this post. One of the decisions he made, early on in his tenure as commander, paid huge dividends and is usually relegated to a passing few lines in most histories of the southern campaigns. What Greene wrote years earlier about “quartermaster in history” the quote that gives this piece its title, holds true in this instance as well.
On December 4, 1780, Greene wrote to Edward Carrington, then on assignment scouting the rivers and topography through North Carolina and southern Virginia, offering him a new assignment; that of quartermaster general for the southern army. After finishing his surveying of the rivers and water transportation, Carrington was ordered to head toward Greene’s forces, bringing supplies that had been gathered with him as well.
This decision, to place an officer of the caliber of Edward Carrington, in that position was a wise move. One that passes largely unheralded. A decision, though, that ultimately leads to success and eventual victory. In this case the momentous “Race to the Dan” that saved Continental forces, fatigued Lord Charles Cornwallis’ British forces, and played an early role in the latter’s move toward Virginia.
On the morning of August 27, 1780 there was a knock on the door of the Charleston, South Carolina residence of Christopher Gadsden, lieutenant governor of South Carolina. He had stayed when the city capitulated to British forces in May. Gadsden had represented the civil government and handed the city over to the British commander, Sir Henry Clinton. He was released on parole.
Now, approximately three months later, Clinton was back in New York, and the new British commander Lord Charles Cornwallis had reneged on the parole agreement. Along with another 20 civil officers, Gadsden was led through the town to the docks to a waiting ship, set to sail for St. Augustine in British East Florida.
Upon arrival in the oldest city in European North America, Gadsden was given the opportunity by Governor Tonyn to avoid incarceration in Florida. This is when the 56-year old patriot probably uttered the phrase below.
“I gave my parole once, and it has been shamefully violated by the British Government: I shall not give another to people on whom no faith can be reposed.”
With that decision, Gadsden landed himself in Castillo de San Marcos the large coquina stone fortress that stood guard over St. Augustine. Not only was the South Carolinian kept in a cell, he was kept in solitary confinement for the next 42 weeks!
Upon his release in September 1781, Gadsden and the rest of the civil prisoners were sent by merchant vessel to Philadelphia. Gadsden wasted no time in hurrying southward to South Carolina and a return to the state House of Representatives. He served in various political roles, although he had to decline the governorship because of the affects of his imprisonment. He died in 1805. A grandson, James Gadsden would give his name to the Gadsden Purchase.
Today one can visit Castillo de San Marcos, a national park unit within the National Park Service. When touring the Castillo you can view the cell where Gadsden spent his solitary confinement and read the accompanying exhibits.
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Dan Davis
Like my last post at Emerging Revolutionary War on the “Race to the Dan”, the origins of this post lie in a conversation with blog co-founder, Phill Greenwalt. The topic of our discussion revolved around the aftermath of the British victory at the Battle of Camden. The engagement ultimately brought two American officers to the Southern Theater: Nathanael Greene and Daniel Morgan. Greene accepted the position as the new head of the Southern Department’s co two months to the day after the battle while commanding the post at West Point, New York. Morgan’s story, however, is much more fascinating.
In the spring of 1779, George Washington created a light infantry corps within the Continental Army. Such a command fit Morgan’s skillset. He previously commanded the army’s provisional rifle corps. Additionally, Morgan, then a colonel, had compiled a record that arguably warranted elevation to brigadier general. After fighting broke out at Lexington and Concord, Morgan led a rifle company to the aid to the American army besieging Boston. Morgan participated in Col. Benedict Arnold’s Canadian Expedition and was captured during the assault on Quebec. He also played a critical role in the Battles of Saratoga. Morgan’s home state of Virginia, however, had met its quota for general officers and a vacancy was not available.
On June 30, 1779, Morgan learned Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne received command of the new corps. With his pride devastated, Morgan traveled to Philadelphia. There, on July 19, Congress read his resignation.
On this date in 1780, Johann von Robias, Baron de Kalb, died of wounds received three days earlier during the Battle of Camden, South Carolina.
de Kalb, born on June 19, 1721 in the Principality of Bayreuth, was in charge of the American right wing during the engagement at Camden, leading the premier units, the Delawareans and Marylanders, of General Horatio Gates’ Southern Army.
When the left and center of the American line disintegrated, de Kalb’s force had to beat a hasty retreat before becoming completely surrounded. During this juncture of the fighting, the Baron’s horse was shot out from under him and the German was thrown to the ground. Before he could gain his feet, he was hit with three musket balls and bayoneted multiple times by approaching British soldiers. The wounds would prove mortal. Continue reading ““De Kalb has died, as he has lived, the unconquered friend of liberty””→
From our friends at American Battlefield Trust (ABT). To learn more about the ABT, click here.
At stake are 31 acres associated with two Southern Campaign Revolutionary War battlefields, Hanging Rock in South Carolina and Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina.
At Hanging Rock, generous battlefield preservationists like you have already secured 141 acres. These 30 acres in the part of the battlefield where the initial Patriot attack began will add significantly to the land we have saved there already.
At Guilford Courthouse, the half-acre tract at stake may be small, but it’s part of a larger strategy to deal with the modern development crowding in on this battlefield from all points of the compass. Our plan is to buy up plots of battlefield land – including small ones and those with non-historic structures on them like this one – remove all non-historic structures and restore the battlefield. The Guilford Courthouse National Military Park has generously agreed to take responsibility for demolishing and removing the house on this plot, a considerable cost that we would typically need to cover. Continue reading “Rise and Fight Again for Southern Revolutionary History”→
St. Louis, Missouri is considered the gateway to the west for the United States beginning in the 19th century. In the 18th century, St. Louis was not on the radar of many in the burgeoning United States.
However, the westernmost engagement of the American Revolution unfolded in the town of St. Louis, crushing British designs to conquer the territory from the Spanish, who were allied with the French and thus the United States.
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.
I was recently reading the superb book by Patrick O’Donnell on Washington’s Immortals, which brought me back to a talk I did about the same Marylanders in the American Revolution a few years back. Below is an excerpt of that talk and highlights the second last stand for a regiment with a tradition of being steadfast when deadly duty called.
On March 15, 1781, approximately 20 men stood in the 1st Maryland Continental Regiment staring at the an eerie and familiar scene. It must have seemed that history was cruelly repeating itself once again. These men had survived the forlorn assault in New York in 1776, the ugly repulse at Camden in 1780, and now stood on third line of General Nathanael Greene’s defense at Guilford Court House.
Besides the 20 men who could be traced back to that fateful day in New York, the men that shouldered muskets in line with them were all veterans of indefinite periods of service as well.
The 1st Maryland and the men they confronted, 2nd Guards Battalion of Guards, were very similar, according to historian Lawrence Babits, who states that “the 1st Maryland was arguably one of the finest regiments produced by the Continental Army.
What ensued next was the defining moment of the battle and in essence the campaign. As the Guards officers gathered their men into a new line, the Marylanders came on at a rush. The Guards responded largely without specific commands…facing the oncoming Continentals, who fired several platoon volleys as they came. At a range of less than 12 yards, both lines fired again, so close that muzzle flashes overlapped into a wide sheet of flame and the heat from the volley could be felt.
Casualties mounted and at close range the musket balls shattered bone and even passed through the bodies of their targets.
The two sides then resorted to the bayonet and Williams recounted “the first Regiment embraced the opportunity…bayoneted and cut to pieces a great number of the British.”
Although the melee only lasted a few minutes, the Marylanders had checked the advance and with the dragoons of William Washington, allowed for Greene to begin to pull back and start the retreat. In another important position, Williams helped lead the rear-guard away from Guilford C.H. The Marylanders lost 15 killed, 42 wounded and 97 missing. Most of the missing could have came from the 2nd Maryland which broke in disorder on the left flank of the 1st Maryland.
Not only did the Marylanders suffer on that fateful March day in 1781, they did so with a lack of, well, everything. According to one inventory report, the entire regiment, numbering little over 300 men had not a single jacket, two-thirds were without proper footwear, and every man was destitute of a full complement of clothing. In addition, the men had served, fought courageously, and bled tremendously, without receiving one cent as pay.
A remarkable “band of brothers” that “held the line for independence.”
Which, in case you were wondering, was the name of the talk.
*Guilford Court House National Military Park is now preserved by the National Park Service, to plan your visit, click here.
*For information on Mr. O’Donnell’s book, click here.