Emerging Revolutionary War checks in with Tom Hand and Americana Corner. Here is what has has been published on that blog for the month of August.
America Looks Westward August 30, 2022
Americans have always had a yearning to move west and discover new lands. Along the way, our ancestors had to overcome many daunting natural barriers, the first of which was the Appalachian Mountains. The Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap was our nation’s first pathway through this formidable range. Read More
The Legacy of Ben Franklin August 23, 2022
The Constitutional Convention adjourned on September 17, 1787, and would be Benjamin Franklin’s last moment in the spotlight of American history. It was a fitting finale for this man who had done so much to shape the nation in which he lived. Franklin was 81 years old, in poor health, and hoped for a well-deserved rest. Read More
Ben Franklin’s Sage Advice Influences Constitutional Convention August 16, 2022
In 1785, Franklin, his work done in France, was recalled to America by Congress. He arrived in Philadelphia that September, revered as one of our nation’s greatest patriots. Despite his need for a well-deserved rest, he was kept continually busy receiving dignitaries, wrapping up loose ends from his eight-year diplomatic mission, and with what would prove to be one final opportunity to help his country. Read More
Ben Franklin Becomes America’s Top Diplomat August 9, 2022
Congress declared America’s independence from England on July 4, 1776, but the most crucial step still lay ahead and that was to secure what we had declared. Delegates knew that to have a real chance at success, the United States needed the assistance of one or more European powers. Read More
Ben Franklin Works Toward Independence August 2, 2022
Partly due to Benjamin Franklin’s testimony before the House of Commons, the Stamp Act, which taxed items such as newspapers and legal documents, was repealed by Parliament on March 18, 1766. Unfortunately, this conciliatory measure was immediately undone when Parliament enacted the Declaratory Act which reasserted that all laws passed by that legislative body were binding on the colonies, including those related to taxes. Read More
Gnadenhutten. Pronounced with a silent “G” does not smoothly roll of the tongue. Nor is it a historical event that most people are aware of. Cue Eric Stener, historian with Emerging Revolutionary War, contributing historian to both the Journal of the American Revolution and Emerging Civil War while conducting a career in government and public policy, specializing on national security and aerospace.
And now specializing on the Massacre at Gnadenhutten. His latest publication, part of the Journal of American Revolution Books is a November 2020 release that examines the March 8, 1872 massacre of peaceful Native Americans under the tutelage of missionaries from the Church of the United Brethren. Conducted by western settlers, the atrocity caught the attention of revolutionaries such as Benjamin Franklin who wrote, “the abominable Murders committed by some of the frontier People on the poor Moravian Indians, has given me infinite Pain and Vexation.”
Although “ample incidents of good and evil on March 8, that summation does not explain what brought murderers and victims together on the banks of the Muskingum River in today’s Ohio.”
For that reason we turn to the next “Rev War Revelry” this Sunday, at 7 p.m. EST on our Facebook page as we discuss his latest work with author Eric Sterner. For more information or to purchase your copy of his book, click here.
We look forward to you joining us this Sunday for the next historian happy hour!
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Dwight Hughes
The recent disastrous conflagration aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) in San Diego harbor brings to mind the original warship by that name and its fiery fate, a tale excellently told in a previous post by Eric Sterner (“I Have not Yet Begun to Fight!” or Words to that Effect (September 23, 1779)). “Bonhomme Richard” means “good man Richard” in French. So, who is Richard? What was good about him? Why is his name on a man-of-war?
The United States Navy likes to carry forward the labels of famous vessels. This is one of the oldest and most revered monikers in navy history, originally assigned in 1779 by Captain John Paul Jones to a rather decrepit French merchantman armed with a motley collection of guns. The French government donated the former Duc De Duras to Jones to sail against their mutual enemies, the British.
Jones famously engaged the powerful frigate HMS Serapis on September 23, 1779 in English waters off Flamborough Head, Yorkshire. The ships grappled together and blasted away at point blank range. Both were battered and ablaze in sinking condition with many casualties when the British captain surrendered. With Bonhomme Richard going down fast, the Americans took over Serapis and managed to save her.
John Paul Jones became the “Father of the U. S. Navy” (or one of them). Bonhomme Richard entered legend as the warship that won and sank. She and her successors also represent those rare U. S. Navy vessels whose names are rendered in a foreign language.
With the recent events facing our nation, American Revolutionary War monuments and memorials have an important role in demonstrating pride in our shared past and the highest ideals we value. Statues and monuments to the leaders and participants of the struggle for American independence today stand on battlefields, in courthouse squares and on historic sites all across this nation. While these statues depict very flawed and imperfect human beings, they memorialize the deeds and character that contributed to the creation of the nation we now live in.
These statues and monuments not only tell an important part of the nation’s founding, they are also artifacts of the eras in which they were constructed and how we have remembered our Revolutionary struggle, and how the ideals of the Revolution continue to live to this very day. Part of what we do at Emerging Revolutionary War is connect the past to the places today. Over the past few weeks we have seen localities remove or plan to remove statues honoring Caesar Rodney in Delaware and Philip Schuyler in New York. We have also seen statues of Marquis de Lafayette, Baron von Steuben, and Thaddeus Kosciusko vandalized in Washington, DC, a statue of George Washington vandalized in Boston, statues vandalized in Philadelphia of Washington and Benjamin Franklin, and the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War in Philadelphia desecrated.
We feel it is important that all of the United States’ Revolutionary War statues and monuments are protected so they can continue to demonstrate our highest values and ideals and the tell the story of the important figures who shaped our nation. Without these monuments, we lose vital resources to tell the important stories of our past and help unite us in moving forward as a country. As the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution draws near, rather than the removal of monuments, we hope more monuments and memorials will be erected, especially for overlooked populations that also played a role in the founding of our nation. With this more comprehensive view of history in mind, a broader and more accurate story can be told to the American public. Emerging Revolutionary War will continue to trace the stories of the past and tie them to the places through these challenging times and we look forward to a better tomorrow.
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Vanessa Smiley
“Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” – Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack
During the 18th century, Colonial society held three common beliefs about beer drinking:
Drinking beer was healthier than drinking water
Beer and its ingredients were a healthy supplement to the entire family’s diet
It was an accepted way to promote social discourse
A little different from today’s society, except for beer connoisseurs (such as the Emerging Revolutionary War folks), these beliefs were formed from the circumstances of the time.
Though a generation away from understanding the connection between boiling water and sanitation, most folks understood that water could make you deathly ill. And yet, ale and beer drinkers did not seem to have that same risk. They did not know it at the time, but the boiling process to make these alternative drinking options neutralized much of any tainted water’s ill effects. Therefore, many substituted beer, ale, and other alternatives such as hard cider over water, making these a major dietary staple in the colonies.
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””→
Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, could have contributed to a forgotten shipwreck narrative, according to new research.
Based on studies of Franklin’s early life as a printer, Dr Hazel Wilkinson claims there are clues which provide information about Benjamin Franklin’s activities during his first visit to London as an 18-year-old printer.
So, vacation time rolls around again and this year my family and I had an opportunity to travel to Paris, France for a few days. Riding into the city from Charles de Gaulle Airport, our taxi driver, by chance, took us past an old, green-corroded bronze statue, set in the middle of a little flowered square. From my vantage, I could only see the bottom portion of the statue; what appeared to be the lower portion of a man in buckled shoes, seated in a wooden chair, atop a marble pedestal. My wife happened to be in the right spot in the vehicle as we quickly drove by. “Looks like Benjamin Franklin, I think.” she said, and with those words, she sent me on a journey to find that statue again and, hopefully, other sites in Paris associated with Mr. Franklin.
Unlike his colleague from New England, John Adams, who was from good, plain Puritan stock, the pulse of a city like Paris, with its decadence, opulence and social intrigue, fit Benjamin Franklin like a glove. As ambassador to France after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Franklin was instrumental in helping to obtain for our fledging nation the financial and military support necessary for bringing our war for independence to a happy conclusion. To the people of Paris, he was somewhat of a celebrity, due to his experiments with electricity. He spoke French and endeared himself to the people by displaying, in his dress and speech, what they considered his “rustic” demeanor. In a word, they were charmed by Benjamin Franklin. The fur cap he was fond of wearing only added to his disguise of “homespun rusticity”. So, finding a monument to him in this city was not much of a surprise. Continue reading “Another American in Paris”→
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Malanna Henderson
“It is not for their own land they fought, not even for a land which had adopted them, but for a land which had enslaved them, and whose laws, even in freedom, oftener oppressed than protected. Bravery, under such circumstances, has a peculiar beauty and merit.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe.
The words spoken by “the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War,” so said Abraham Lincoln, according to legend, upon meeting Mrs. Stowe sometime in 1862, rang true for black patriots in the Civil War as well as those in the Revolutionary War.
The Smithsonian tome, The American Revolutionary War: A Visual History quotes a Hessian officer in 1777, as saying, “No regiment is to be seen in which there are not Negroes in abundance and among them are able-bodied and strong fellows.”
In every battle of the Revolutionary War from Lexington to Yorktown; black men, slave and free, picked up the musket and defended America; and yet, many historians as well as visual artists have omitted their contributions in the history books and their images on canvases depicting historic battles. The need for white historians to “overlook,” “underestimate,” and or “erase,” these sacrifices is a gross negligence that distorts and misrepresents American history; and furthermore, it continues to disenfranchise the patriotic heroes of the past and malign the self-image of millions of Americans today simply because of the color of their skin.
Black soldiers have always fought two wars simultaneously; wars declared by their government and the unspoken wars at home for liberty, equality and before the Civil War, for citizenship.
What kind of men fight for the liberty of others when their own liberty isn’t guaranteed?
True patriots: James Armistead Lafayette was one such person.
Slaves serving in the rebel military was a question that manifested itself early amongst the colonial government agencies. Their presence rankled many, while others welcomed them and praised their bravery. Some men of color had fought gallantly and with distinction as they stood alongside their white compatriots, defenders of liberty on the Lexington Green in April of 1775.
For instance, in the Battle of Bunker Hill, Peter Salem, a slave, served with courage under fire, as varying accounts reported. Salem was introduced to George Washington as “the man who shot Pitcairn,” the British Royal Marine Major who shouted to his men before Salem shot him down, “The day is ours.” Despite the competence and bravery of such men on the battlefield their exploits didn’t convert the wide-spread reluctance of most colonists to accept black men as soldiers.
General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, harbored the same common prejudices of the southern-planter ruling class of which he was a member. In July, he instructed recruiters “not to enlist any stroller, negro, or vagabond, or person suspected of being an enemy to the liberty of America.” Commanders in each colony and regiment made up their own minds. Some ignored his command. Their decision was based on need and experience. Those who had already served successfully with black militia and minutemen may have seen no cause to alter their regiments.
By December of 1776, Washington back-pedaled on his decision, allowing for black veterans of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill to serve; but of the slave, he maintained his objection. However, some junior officers appreciated the contributions of blacks. Col. John Thomas wrote John Adams on October 24, 1775, “We have negroes, but I look upon them as equally serviceable with other men, for fatigue (labor); and, in action many of them have proven themselves brave.”
As the war raged on, the necessity for able-bodied men settled the question. White soldiers, who usually served for only a few months to a year, mustered out, died or were wounded; while others deserted. Black soldiers who expected to receive their freedom if they served were in the war for the duration. This was a positive factor for the commanding officers who had to re-train all new recruits. Around five-thousand blacks served in the Revolutionary War as soldiers. However, a vast unknown number provided a myriad of support services.
Another reason the colonials reconsidered enlisting blacks was the bold military tactic that occurred in November of 1775. Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia, ratified a proclamation freeing all indentured servants and slaves of rebels if they would fight for the British. Thousands of people fled the plantations to gain their freedom. This single act struck a devastating blow on two fronts, it threaten their economic stability and increased the tension between master and slave, with the master fearing slave revolts and the permanent loss of their property. Moreover, it upset the social order. Enslaved men serving alongside whites put them on an equal footing in the battlefield, which violated the white supremacy dogma that governed current thought and practice.
Born into slavery on December 10, 1748, in New Kent, Virginia to owner William Armistead, James enlisted in the Revolutionary War under General Marquis de Lafayette in 1781. His owner was a patriot and most likely received the bonus James would have gotten for enlisting had he been free or white. Enlistment bonuses comprised of money, land or slaves.
By the time Armistead entered the war, the efforts of Benjamin Franklin and other colonial agents had secured a military and economic alliance with the French. A long-time imperial rival of British expansion, the French provided naval ships, money and personnel.
Marquis de Lafayette (born Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier) was a descendant of ancient French nobility. His father, a colonel in the French Grenadiers had died in the Seven Year’s War (known as the French and Indian War in America) when the young nobleman was only two years old. The political ideals of liberty and equality espoused by the colonials matched his beliefs and fired his military ambitions. Perchance, his yearning to play a role in America’s fight for independence from British rule may have been spawned by a desire to avenge his father’s death.
Since Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation, it was easy for Armistead to gain access in the enemy camps as a runaway slave seeking his freedom. While providing varied services to the British, he gained the confidence of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, who by now had defected to the British. He charged Armistead with scouting, foraging and spying. Armistead was able to comfortably go between both camps, in essence becoming a double spy. He carried false and misleading information to the British but provided accurate intelligence on the movement of British forces and details of their military strategies to General Lafayette.
When Arnold left Virginia, Armistead was able to deceive General Charles Cornwallis as well, who rampaged through parts of Virginia and burned Richmond, the capital. He sent Colonel Banastre Tarleton to capture the entire legislative assembly, which included Daniel Boone, Patrick Henry and the governor. The plan was thwarted by an astute young man named Jack Jouett. Although, a few were apprehended, among them Daniel Boone; Jouett’s actions prevented the British from arresting the biggest prize: Governor Thomas Jefferson.
By early August, Cornwallis had made plans to establish fortifications in Yorktown, expecting reinforcements to increase his troops of approximately nine-thousand.
General Washington, in the meantime, had joined forces with Comte de Rochambeau to recapture New York. With intelligence supplied by James Armistead, they learned that Cornwallis was in Yorktown waiting for military support. French Admiral de Grasse, with a fleet of about twenty-eight naval ships, was on his way to the Chesapeake from St. Dominick (present-day Haiti). A plan to surround Cornwallis by land and sea appeared possible. The French naval fleet, along with the Washington’s Continental and Rochambeau’s French forces, headed to the enemy’s headquarters. Once Washington reached Yorktown, General Lafayette’s regiment joined him. Thus, Armistead’s accurate and meticulous reports were vital to the American victory that culminated in Yorktown on October 19, 1781.
Later Cornwallis met the Marquis at his headquarters and was flabbergasted to find his spy James Armistead present.
The Treaty of Paris in 1783 severed ties from Britain, the mother country, and established America as an independent nation. That same year, the Act of 1783 was passed freeing slaves who had fought in the Revolutionary War on their masters’ behalf. However, it excluded slave-spies. Ergo, James Armistead, who risked his life by providing information to help win the freedom of many, was himself denied freedom. Was his life in less danger operating under subterfuge as a spy amongst the British than it would have been, had he served as a soldier on the battlefield? I think not. Had his espionage been discovered, he surely would have had to forfeit his life.
After the war, Armistead was returned to slavery. Even his own master didn’t have the legal right to free him because of the Act of 1783, omitting slave-spies from emancipation.
When learning of his compatriot’s status, the Marquis penned a certificate to the Virginia legislator in October of 1784 imploring them to grant Armistead his freedom, declaring:
“This is to Certify that the Bearer By the Name of James Armistead Has done Essential Services to me While I had the Honour to Command in this State. His Intelligences from the Ennemy’s Camp were Industriously Collected and More faithfully deliver’d. He properly Acquitted Himself with Some Important Commissions I Gave Him and Appears to me Entitled to Every Reward his Situation Can Admit of. Done Under my Hand,” Richmond, November 21st 1784.
The legislator didn’t act upon the request straightaway. However, again in 1786, James Armistead applied for his freedom and it was duly granted on January 9, 1787, with a fair compensation to his master, William.
In honor of his benefactor, James Armistead added Lafayette to his surname. After emancipation, he moved a short distance south of New Kent, near Richmond, Virginia and acquired forty acres of less than suitable farmland. He married and had a family. He even owned slaves. History doesn’t tell us if he bought enslaved relatives to free them or if they were bought to farm his land as field hands.
It wasn’t until 1819 that he applied to the state legislature for financial assistance to ease his poverty. This time, the response was immediate; he received $60 and an annual pension of $40 for his service during the Revolutionary War.
Unlike James Armistead Lafayette, many blacks who worked as laborers, guides, messengers and spies were not as fortunate. Whether they were pressed into service or willingly answered the call, most neither received their freedom nor wages for their behind-the-scene contributions to the war.
In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette visited the United States and was lauded as a hero of the American Revolutionary War in Richmond with festivities and a parade. Spying Armistead in the crowd, it is said he halted the procession, dismounted from his horse and embraced his old comrade.
On August 2, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the majority of the 56 men who would forever be known as the “Signers of the Declaration of Independence” placed quill to ink and affixed their signature.
On September 17, 1787, the men who persevered, haggled, and agreed on the United States Constitution, dipped a quill into ink and placed their signatures on that famous document.
If one looks closely and reads the names of the signers, six gentlemen’s names would appear on both documents. If one hazarded a quick guess, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, John or Samuel Adams, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin would most likely be the first names to spill off the tongue.
Only one of those names would be correct; Benjamin Franklin. This post, the first in the series, will shed light on whose these men were, who had the great fortune–or luck?–to sign both famous political documents. The first of the “Six Signing Signers” is…..