“Rev War Revelry” Nathanael Greene, Quartermaster

In March 1778, Major General Nathanael Greene finally consented to become the quartermaster for the Continental army then encamped at Valley Forge. He was loathe to give up his position as a line commander in charge of a division of infantry but with reassurances from General George Washington that he would retain his place and that his expertise was absolutely needed to revitalize the quartermaster department the Rhode Islander agreed.

His work over the next two plus years paid huge dividends. On Sunday, August 21, at 7p.m. EDT join Emerging Revolutionary War on our Facebook page for the next “Rev War Revelry.” Joining ERW will be the American Battlefield Trust’s Senior Education Manager, historian and author Dan Davis.

In reference to Greene’s role as quartermaster general at Valley Forge, Davis said, “Primarily remembered for his actions during the Southern Campaign, Nathanael Greene’s efforts at Valley Forge were critical in sustaining the Continental Army during a crucial period of its history.”

We look forward to a great discussion and hope you can join us for this historian happy hour!

One artist’s depiction of what the encampment at Valley Forge looked like

“If General Howe attempts…”

On December 19, 1777 a bedraggled, underfed, undersupplied, and hemorrhaging manpower, the Continental army trudged into their permanent winter encampment at Valley Forge. Located approximately 20 miles from Philadelphia, General George Washington’s army would recuperate, revitalize, re-train, and march out six months later a different military force.

Meanwhile, the British army, victors of Brandywine and survivors of Germantown ensconced themselves in the colonial capital of the rebellious colonies after its peaceful fall on September 26, 1777. Commanded by Sir General William Howe the British were better fed, better equipped, and in theory better suited to continue conducting military operations to quell the rebellion.

Which begs the question, why did Howe not attack Valley Forge?

Sir William Howe

Although historians have grappled with this, there are a number of reasons why Howe did not press the issue during the winter months, some range from personal to logistical to how warfare was conducted in the 18th century.

Was Howe frustrated at Washington for not taking the bait at White Marsh in early December 1777 to fight outside defensive works and envisioned the same reticence would be shown by the Virginian if the British attempted an offensive action toward Valley Forge?

Or was Howe simply a man of his time and war was not practiced in winter when there were so many variables one could not control, chiefly the unpredictability of Mother Nature?

Was Howe already worried about his reception and defense when he arrived back in England? Only willing to take a low risk-high reward gambit, which he attempted in May 1778 at Barren Hill?

One of his own soldiers, Captain Richard Fitzpatrick in a letter to Charles Fox penned the following;

               “If General Howe attempts anything but securing his army for the winter I shall
consider him, after what has happened in the north, a very rash man. But if he
lets himself be governed by General Grant I shall not be surprised if we get
into some cursed scrape.”[1]

Or does this one paragraph explain the main reason behind no winter campaigning, “what has happened in the north.” A clear implication to the disaster of the other field army operating in the northern American colonies, Burgoyne’s that capitulated at Saratoga in October 1777.

Although we will never know for certain, this is a question that has come up in conversations, at book talks, and around the national park at Valley Forge. This is a question Emerging Revolutionary War will grapple with on our second annual bus tour, which will include Valley Forge, this November. Check the link “Bus Tour 2022” on the black banner above to secure your ticket and partake in the ongoing debate on why Howe did not attack. Limited tickets remain.

[1] Urban, Mark. “Fusiliers: The Saga of a British Redcoat Regiment in the American Revolution (Walker & Company: Manhattan, 2007).

2022 Symposium Speaker Highlight: Scott Stroh

We are happy to welcome Scott Stroh to our Third Annual Symposium on the American Revolution, co-hosted with Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, The Lyceum and Emerging Revolutionary War. This year’s theme is “The World Turned Upside: The American Revolution’s Impact on a Global Scale. We asked Scott to answer a few questions about their talk and their passion for history.

Scott Stroh was born in Philadelphia, PA, but family roots along the Chesapeake Bay fostered a deep love of Virginia history at a young age. Mr. Stroh Graduated from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA with a BA in History and Education in 1992 and from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN with a MA in History and Museum Studies in 1997.

Mr. Stroh served as Curator of Collections and Interpretation at the Anacortes Museum in Anacortes, WA, as Curator at Historic Spanish Point in Osprey, FL, as Executive Director of the Roanoke Island Commission in Manteo, NC, as Florida’s State Historic Preservation Officer and Director of Historical Resources, and as Executive Director of the Milwaukee County Historical Society. He was appointed Executive Director of Gunston Hall in June 2013.

What first attracted you to the study of early American history? What keeps you involved in the study of this history? Do you find these things are the same or different?  

Growing up in Philadelphia I fell in love with history and, in particular, early American history as a child.  Even at a young age, I was very interested in the people who defined this period and I voraciously read biographies about anybody living during that period of time. My favorite museum was also Franklin Court, in part because they had a large room with telephones that allowed you to call and “talk” with the Founders, but also with lesser known figures like Absalom Jones (first African American to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal of the United States). These moments, and others like them, were defining experiences of my childhood and directly contributed to my career in museums.

I remain involved with this history not only because of my role at Gunston Hall, but perhaps more importantly because I believe learning about and understanding this history is essential to being an informed and productive citizen today.

Continue reading “2022 Symposium Speaker Highlight: Scott Stroh”

The French Cavalryman

   “Colonel Armand’s dragoons and militia displayed a good countenance, but were soon borne down by the rapid charge of the legion. The chase again commenced…” So wrote British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton in his work, “A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781, in the Southern Provinces of North America” regarding his pursuit of retreating American militiamen from the disastrous battlefield at Camden, SC in August 1780, and the gallant effort of one Patriot cavalry commander, a foreign officer, who sought desperately to reform the panicked militia and make a stand. He was Lieutenant Colonel Charles Armand Tuffin, Marquis de la Rouerie.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Armand

   French by birth, Armand was one of many European soldiers to come to America in the 1770’s with hopes of obtaining high ranking commissions in the fledgling Continental Army during the Revolution. Arriving in 1776, Armand’s service in the war would generally become overshadowed by that of his more famous countryman, the younger Marquis de Lafayette, who would arrive a year later.

Continue reading “The French Cavalryman”

Americana Corner

Been a bit since we checked in and shared what our good friend Tom Hand has been doing at Americana Corner. The blog, dedicated to sharing “informative stories of the great events, founding documents, and inspirational leaders” routinely has a new post up every Tuesday. Below is what was on the blog for the month of May. Click the title to read the entire post.

Patriots, Loyalists and America’s First Civil War
With the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, the actual fighting of the American Revolution was underway. As it turned out, this open warfare was not reserved just for the new Continental Army formed around Boston and the British Army trapped in the city. It soon spilled over into a fight between neighbors.

Americans Divide Over Independence
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a civil war is a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same state or country. By this definition or any objective measure, our nation experienced a civil war from about 1773 to 1783. It was much worse in its intensity and cost than anything from the Civil War, including Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea.

The Quasi-War and Its Aftermath
The only fighting in the Quasi-War occurred at sea, and mostly in the Caribbean. But with war at a fever pitch and French interests so close by in Louisiana, there was a very real concern in Congress about a possible French invasion of the United States from the west.

Escalating Tensions with France Lead to Quasi-War
The Quasi-War was an undeclared war between France and the United States, largely fought at sea in the Caribbean and along the southern coast of America, between 1798 and 1800. It developed because of a series of related events that soured the formerly strong relationship between the two nations.

Along The Way

   It’s nearly 25 years ago now. I was driving through western North Carolina, on my way south to Cowpens National Battlefield located in Gaffney, SC, scene of the January 17, 1781, battle.

   These were the days before the internet or GPS. Travelers of the day, such as I, depended solely on our wits and a good old-fashioned state map. I had recently finished reading a wonderful biography on the life of American frontiersman, Daniel Boone by John Mack Faragher. So, when I crossed a bridge over the Yadkin River, I knew I was in Boone country.

   The Boone family had migrated south from Exeter Township, in Berks County, PA in 1750. The father of Daniel, Squire Boone, Sr, had purchased land in the Yadkin Valley. It’s where young Daniel Boone took his bride, Rebecca Bryan, and where the couple would be domiciled longer than anywhere else they would live during their long marriage. This is where they would start a family of their own.

   After consulting my map and the copy of Faragher’s book, I knew I was near the small community of Mocksville, south of Winston-Salem, not far off I-40. There in the old Joppa Burial Ground, can still be found the graves of Squire and Sarah Morgan Boone; the parents of the famous frontiersman.

   It’s almost 25 years now since I first pulled up to this ancient cemetery; I parked in a small strip mall adjacent to it. Souvenir hunters had chipped off pieces of the grave stones over the years, so they were later encased in a small masonry wall for protection. I had almost forgotten this impromptu stop; that is until quite recently when I found myself heading south again, this time on my way to visit the Guildford Courthouse battlefield in Greensboro. Remembering the area, I decided to stop off again to pay my respects to the Boones.

Continue reading “Along The Way”

‘Timely and Handsome’: Transformation of the Continental Army at Valley Forge (Virtual Event)

April 19th in American Revolutionary War history is usually remembered as the day the “shot heard around the world” happened in the towns of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. For the 2022 edition of that day, Emerging Revolutionary War invites you to turn your attention to Valley Forge and a virtual event hosted by the Valley Forge Park Alliance.

Starting at 7 p.m. EDT, Emerging Revolutionary War historian, Phillip S. Greenwalt will present a virtual talk entitled, ‘Timely and Handsome’: Transformation of the Continental Army at Valley Forge. A synopsis of the talk is below.

“As spring began to blossom over Valley Forge, Baron von Steuben’s drilling of the Continental army was in full effect. Although the men and officers of Washington’s army had become proficient on the drill field, there was still the simple question of how would they fare against the British in the upcoming campaign season? A month prior to the end of the winter encampment on June 19, 1778, a small-scale action, at Barren Hill, by a detachment of the Continental army would prove a snapshot into possible future battlefield behavior. The signs were promising. This talk will focus on the training of von Steuben, the composition of the Marquis de Lafayette’s force that marched out of the encampment in middle of May, the action at Barren’s Hill, and the insight this small scale action showed about the transformation of the army during the winter at Valley Forge.”

To register for the event, click here. The link will take you to the Valley Forge Park Alliance website. To learn more about this important aspect of the Valley Forge encampment, Emerging Revolutionary War invites you to click the link on the title bar at the top of this blog labeled “2022 Bus Tour” and secure one of 14 remaining tickets to attend the November 11-13, 2022 tour that will cover Valley Forge and Monmouth.

Reenactors portraying Continental soldiers being trained at Valley Forge
(courtesy of Valley Forge Park Alliance)

Before the Revolution

When studying history we tend to divide time periods up and compartmentalize them for our own ease of study and understanding. Yet when we step back and look, it becomes obvious how events flow one into another. There is a great deal of overlap and often events occurred concurrently.

April 19 will bring the anniversary of the opening of the Revolution at Lexington and Concord. While the conflict with Great Britain was growing and festering, other events were taking place in various colonies. The ending of the French and Indian War is seen as the close of an era and a neat stopping point before the coming of the Revolution. Yet on the heels of the war’s ending, Britain began implementing the taxes and regulations that would anger American colonists.

Continue reading “Before the Revolution”

Marquis de Lafayette, Virginia 1781

A few weeks back, you may have noticed a video on Emerging Revolutionary War’s Facebook page about the Marquis de Lafayette and his independent command during the spring and summer of 1781 in Virginia. Along with good pal, Dan Davis, we located a site of where Lafayette encamped while he maneuvers to protect the iron furnaces of the Fredericksburg area, keep a distance from British forces under General Lord Charles Cornwallis, and await reinforcements being sent south under General Anthony Wayne.

He continued to keep his commander-in-chief, General George Washington updated on affairs in the latter’s native state. From a camp in central Virginia the Frenchman penned the following letter.

Camp Betwen Rappaahonock and North Anna June 3d 1781

My Dear General

Inclosed you will find the Copy of a letter to General Greene. He at first Had-Requested I would directly write to you, Since which His orders Have Been different, But He directed me to forward you Copies of My official Accounts. So many letters are lost in their Way that I do not Care to Avoid Repetitions. I Heartly wish, My dear General, My Conduct may Be approved of particularly By You. My Circumstances Have Been peculiar, and in this State I Have Some times Experienced Strange disappointements. Two of them the Stores at Charlotte’s Ville, and the delay of the [Pensylva] Detachement Have given me Much Uneasiness and May Be attended with Bad Consequences. There is great Slowness and Great Carelessness in this part of the world—But the Intentions are good, and the people want to Be Awakened. Your presence, My dear General, would do a Great deal. Should these deta[chments] Be Increased to three or four thousand, and the french Army Come this way, leaving One of our generals at Rhode island and two or three about New York and in the Jersays you Might be on the offensive in this Quarter, and there Could Be a Southern Army in Carolina. Your presence would do Immense good, But I would wish you to Have a large force—General Washington Before He personally appears must Be Strong enough to Hope Success. Adieu, My dear general, With the Highest Respect and Most Tender affection I Have the Honor to be Yours

Lafayette

If you persist in the idea to Come this Way you may depend upon about 3000 Militia in the field Relieved every two months. your presence will induce them to turn out with great Spirit.

That letter may have been written somewhere around the terrain you see in the photos below. You never know what you can stumble into touring central Virginia!

*Link to the letter can be found here.

“Rev War Revelry” Author Spotlight  Decision at Brandywine: The Battle on Birmingham Hill with Robert Dunkerly

This Sunday on the Emerging Revolutionary War’s Facebook page, Robert Dunkerly will join the “Rev War Revelry” to discuss his newest publication, Decision at Brandywine: The Battle of Birmingham Hill.

The Battle of Brandywine, fought on September 11, 1777, saw the defeat of the American forces in southeastern Pennsylvania. The victory by the British opened the road to Philadelphia, which fell to Sir William Howe’s forces on September 26, fifteen days after the battle.

Dunkerly, a park ranger with Richmond National Battlefield Park and a contributing historian for Emerging Revolutionary War will discuss the pivotal action that happened around Birmingham Hill on that Thursday in 1777. The engagement at Brandywine was the largest and longest battle in the entire American Revolution and the third bloodiest. This new publication examines the action near Birmingham Hill and Meeting House where the action that day turned against George Washington’s forces.

Thus, this Sunday, at 7 p.m. EDT, tune into ERW’s Facebook page for the next historian happy hour as the popular “Rev War Revelry” series continues with this author spotlight.