The odds are good that you haven’t been able to visit some of your favorite Revolutionary War sites during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of these locations rely on foot traffic for their annual income and may be struggling to stay afloat amidst various state lockdowns and a smaller number of visitors. (We left out many national, state, and local parks, which sometimes have access to government funds. But, they often have partnerships with non-profit foundations that provide vital support for their activities.) So, we decided to start a list of museums and parks that you can help out now and visit as circumstances allow. No doubt it will grow. The list does not constitute a solicitation or endorsement, but many of our historians visited some of these museums in the past and found them really helpful to our own work. (You may need to copy and paste some links.) If you search our “weekender” posts, there are even more sites to support and visit when you can.
A Loyal Englishman in a Hostile Country
Part 2 click here.
When he arrived in Alexandria, Virginia in October 1775, Nicholas Cresswell, an Englishman visiting the colonies in search opportunity, found himself in dire straits. The war had cut off his father’s money, while his loyalist principles strained his acquaintances and put him in an awkward position. He summed it up: “if I enter into any sort of business I must be obliged to enter into the service of these rascals and fight against my Friends and Country if called upon. On the other hand, I am not permitted to depart the Continent and have nothing if I am fortunate enough to escape the jail. I will live as cheap as I can and hope for better times.”[i]
For some Englishman, the political conflict between the United Kingdom and its American colonies was an afterthought that should not interfere with their plans to build a future based on American wealth. Nicholas Cresswell was one such person. He traveled to the colonies on the eve of the American Revolution and returned home in 1777, having kept an extensive diary of his travels, experiences, thoughts, and conditions in America during the war’s first years. Along the way, he met some of the most colorful and interesting people who played prominent roles in the war: George Rogers Clark, Delaware Indian leaders White Eyes and Killbuck, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, William Howe, Robert Rogers, and Charles Lee to name a few. Since its publication, Cresswell’s journal has become a touchstone for historians looking for insight into those people, how a loyal Englishman like Cresswell saw the world and the Americans around him interpreted events. In particular, he recounts the feelings and treatment of loyalists trapped in America during the war. With that in mind, reviewing Cresswell’s diary might help spread the word about a worthwhile primary resource.
When you mention the name “Charles Lee” in many Revolutionary War circles, one immediately thinks of Maj. Gen. Charles Lee. Though there was another Charles Lee and it can be argued provided more contributions to the United States than the British born military general.
Charles Lee was born in 1758 on his father’s plantation Leesylvania in Prince William County, Virginia. The 2,000-acre farm that sat on the Potomac River and neighbored other Potomac River families such as the Fairfaxes, Washingtons and Masons. Charles’ father, Henry Lee II, a political colleague and friend of George Washington, Charles was one of eight siblings and five males that would solidify the Lee family’s role as leaders in politics and society. Continue reading “George Washington’s “Favorite” Charles Lee”
William Griffith’s examination of the Carlyle House Congress last month (The Carlyle House Congress and Britain’s Military Objectives for 1755) reminded me that I had been remiss in not visiting the site. So, the family and I set off for Alexandria, VA and a visit to John Carlyle’s home.
It will be hard to describe in modern terms the celebrity of Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, Marquis de Lafayette (aka LaFayette) in 18th century America.
The young Marquis was fascinated with the American ideal of revolution and against the wishes of the French monarchy, in 1776 he cast his lot with the American patriots. His relationship with George Washington and other American leaders played a major role in the American-French alliance that brought about American independence. Continue reading “The Return of L’Hermoine”