Hindsight is 2020 (or 2021)

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Liz Williams, from Historic Alexandria, the host of the second annual symposium

When we planned our 2nd Annual Revolutionary War Symposium for 2020, our theme came easily – Hindsight is 2020. Little did we know that our cheeky title would take on a different meaning as we had to navigate a global pandemic. But I am excited that we can still offer our symposium (yes 6 months later) and virtual!  In this format, we can zoom our experts to computers and smartphones across the country. And this year we have a great variety of topics – from Drunken Hessians to African American Continentals. Learn about Loyalists, battles in the Southern Theatre, and along a creek in southeastern Pennsylvania.

As we move toward the 250th anniversary of the nation, it is critical for us all to look with fresh eyes at our founding. At Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, we engage with the complexity and challenges of early America, many of which were rooted in what transpired before and during the Revolutionary War. By understanding our past, we can continue the work of creating a better United States for all.

The Symposium costs $40 per person, $20 OHA Members & Students and reservations can be made at AlexandriaVa.gov/Shop. Looking forward to seeing everyone on May 22!

The Continentals’ Last Claimant: The Story of Lemuel Cook

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Kevin Pawlak

New York state has a rich American Revolution history. Battlefields at Saratoga, Oriskany, Fort Ticonderoga, Long Island, and more dot the state’s connection to our nation’s founding. But growing up in the western part of the state, those sites were at least a few hours’ drive.

Recently, I discovered a neat story related to the American Revolution that was in my own home county—Orleans County. It is not a battlefield, though it is about a man who stood on those battlefields with George Washington’s Continental Army. Lemuel Cook, who died at the age of 107, spent the last thirty years of his life in the next town over from my hometown and died there. While he was not the last surviving veteran of the war for America’s independence, he was the last to claim a pension for his service.

Lemuel Cook

Ninety-one years prior to his death in 1866, the sixteen-year-old Connecticut native enlisted with the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons. He saw service with the dragoons at Brandywine and Yorktown.

Cook moved frequently after his service expired until he settled in Clarendon, New York in 1832. Cook’s devotion to the nation he helped create never waned until his dying days. He regularly attended town hall meetings and elections until a few years before his death. Souvenir seekers continually asked for the old veteran’s autograph, which he obliged. In 1861, a photographer captured this national treasure in a photograph.

Unfortunately, even Cook could not defeat Father Time. As he aged, his speech became “very fragmentary,” according to one newspaper. “He recalls the past slowly, and with difficulty, but when he has his mind fixed upon it, all seems to come up clear.” Despite his weariness, Cook’s spunk occasionally showed, “the old determination still manifesting itself in his look and words.” Specifically, during an interview in the midst of the American Civil War, Cook pounded his cane on the floor and proclaimed, “It is terrible, but terrible as it is the rebellion must be put down.” Incredibly, he lived to see the rebellion “put down” and died on May 20, 1866.

Cook’s grave, located in the Cook Cemetery on Munger Road in Clarendon, suffered damage in a windstorm in 2017 but was quickly fixed. In the same year, descendants and local historians unveiled a state historic marker alerting passersby to this unique niche of Revolutionary War history in a place far from the famous battlefields that achieved our nation’s independence.

“Rev War Roundtable with ERW” Brandywine Campaign

The largest, in terms of military forces deployed, engagement in the American Revolutionary War occurred on September 11, 1777 in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Battle of Brandywine was a pivotal moment in the British campaign that captured the patriot capital in Philadelphia. With the anniversary of the engagement happening the Friday before, the Emerging Revolutionary War crew will make this engagement and campaign the focal point of Sunday’s “Rev War Roundtable with ERW.”

Joining the “Rev War Revelry” this Sunday, at 7pm on Emerging Revolutionary War’s Facebook page will be Michael C. Harris, historian and author of Brandywine: A History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777, which was published and is available for purchase by Savas Beatie. Click here to order.

Besides authoring the history mentioned above, Harris has an upcoming release, on another important battle in Pennsylvania, Germantown, fought on October 4, 1777. Rumor on the street has it that he will be joining ERW at a future date to discuss this important battle and talk about his new book.

A bit of a background on Harris. He is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and the American Military University. He has worked for the National Park Service in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Fort Mott State Park in New Jersey, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission at Brandywine Battlefield. He has conducted tours and staff rides of many east coast battlefields. Michael is certified in secondary education and currently teaches in the Philadelphia region. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Michelle and son, Nathanael.

Although the battle lost Philadelphia for the patriots, Harris does not hold back on the culprit for the setback:

“Washington failed the army, the army did not fail Washington.”

To hear the reasoning behind that emphatic quote we hope you join us this Sunday!

Stolen Honor in Georgia

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Gabriel Neville.

Thirty years ago, Dutch Henderson was “stomping through the woods” near Lake Sinclair in central Georgia when he stumbled upon an old gravestone. Some might have thought it an odd spot for a grave, but Dutch knew the history of the area and it made sense. In fact, the setting told him the man six feet under had played an important role in American history.

The inscription on the marker read: “CORP. DRURY JACKSON, SLAUGHTER’S CO. 8 VA. REGT. REV. WAR.” Why was this headstone for a Revolutionary War soldier all alone in the woods near a lake? Time changes things. Neither the lake nor the woods were there when Drury Jackson died. Back then the grave was on cleared ground overlooking the Oconee River. Depressions in the soil still reveal to the trained eye that Drury was buried in proper cemetery. The river became a lake in 1953 when it was dammed up to create a 45,000-kilowatt hydroelectric generating station. When Dutch found the grave, the cemetery had been neglected and reclaimed by nature. Today it is in a copse of trees surrounded by vacation homes.

The mysterious headstone for veteran Drury Jackson provides no dates to help us identify the man in the ground. (Dutch Henderson)

Dutch spends his free time studying local history and conducting archeology. He has made some important finds, including a string of frontier forts along what was once the “far” side of the Oconee. He’s pretty sure that Drury’s burial in that spot is an important clue to his life in the years following the Revolutionary War. From there, however, things get complicated.[1]

A genealogy site sporting a photo of the headstone tells us that Drury Jackson was born in Brunswick County, Virginia on February 2, 1745, married Lucy Dozier and then Nancy Ann Kennedy, and died in Wilkes County, Georgia before 1794. This seems possible, but Wilkes County is about seventy miles northeast of the grave. Another source tells us that Drury Jackson was born in 1767 in Franklin County, Tennessee, married Lucy B. Myrick, and died in Baldwin County, Georgia in 1823. This seems more likely, since the grave is in Baldwin County.

So, which of the two men is the right Drury Jackson? The easy assumption is that the stone properly belongs to the one who died nearby. The grave marker itself is of no help. It provides neither the date of his birth nor the date of his death. Moreover, it is the kind of marker that was issued after 1873 by the federal government for the graves of veterans of the Civil and Spanish-American wars (and the unmarked graves of veterans of earlier wars). It is clear that the marker was placed there long after the man’s death by descendants or others in the community.[2]

Continue reading “Stolen Honor in Georgia”

The Revolution’s Impact on Pennsylvania’s Pacifist Communities Part 1 of 2

Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn, was a Quaker, and insisted on morality and fairness for his government: fair treatment of Native Americans and religious freedom for all citizens.

By the time of the Revolution the colony was 90 years old and a variety of religious groups found safe haven in the colony, including Huguenots, German Pietists, Amish, Mennonite, Dutch Reformed, Lutherans, Quakers, Anglicans, Protestants, Dutch Mennonites, Jewish, and Baptists.

Quakers are perhaps the best known religious group that thrived in Pennsylvania. The Society of Friends emerged in England in the mid-1600s, and were persecuted for their beliefs. William Penn, an aristocratic Quaker convert, received a land grant as payment for a debt from the crown, and made religious toleration a cornerstone of the colony. When armies invaded Pennsylvania in 1777, the state’s Quakers were impacted.  Refusing to be active participants, they did offer humanitarian aid to both sides.

Continue reading “The Revolution’s Impact on Pennsylvania’s Pacifist Communities Part 1 of 2”

Campaign 1776 Updates

Our friends at Campaign 1776, an initiative of the Civil War Trust,  have passed along a few important updates from their very busy September.

campaign-1776-logo-220First, another installment of their very popular “In4” video series sheds light on the Battle of Brandywine, fought in southeastern Pennsylvania on September 11, 1777. The video is narrated by Thomas McGuire, historian and author. Check out the video here.

Switching gears to the Southern Theater, Campaign 1776 has kicked off an initiative to save 1,037 acres at six sites in South Carolina. Those sites include land on Port Royal Island, Fort Fair Lawn, Colleton Castle, Lewisfield Plantation, Hanging Rock, and Waxhaws.

This appeal is the “first of its kind”, according to Civil War Trust Communication Manager Meg Martin, “to save land at these sites.” Furthermore, some of these sites were pivotal to the eventual outcome of the American Revolution, as some historians believe that the war was essentially won in the Southern Theater.

Learn more about the Campaign’s involvement here. But, feel free to leave your opinion on whether you agree that the American Revolution was won in the South or not in the comments below.

 

*Thank you to Meg Martin for her contributions to this post.*

ERW Weekender: Brandywine & Valley Forge

Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome guest historian Daniel Welch to the blog. A brief biography of Mr. Welch is at the bottom of the post. 

Several weeks ago I decided to take my usual weekend off of visiting American Civil War battlefields to take a moment to explore some American Revolutionary War historic sites just several hours down the road. Since it was a rather last minute decision, I was not completely prepared before visiting other than some basic historical context and a vague idea of operating hours and things to do while at these historic sites. So, if you want to follow the Continental Army during their experiences in the fall and winter of 1777-1778 read on to help plan a great weekend day trip.

Battle of Brandywine

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Sandy Hollow, Brandywine Battlefield

If you want to follow these events as they happened, and in chronological order, began your day at the Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates site. Walking the site is free, but there is a charge if you want to go through the museum or on a tour of one of two historic homes on the property. Their hours are constantly changing so make sure you check their website. (click here), before you plan your visit. To go on a house tour, view the film, and go through the museum there is an $8.00 charge; the museum and film alone is $5.00. I would suggest, if you have the time, to take in the film and museum. The film lasts approximately twenty minutes while a thorough look of the museum could take one an additional forty minutes. Between the film and museum, a firm foundation to the events of September 11, 1777 will be in place before you head out to other locations associated with the battle.  The house tour is a guided tour through Washington’s headquarters on the property and is conducted by a volunteer at the site. The tour took over an hour and a half, and considering that the home had burned to the ground nearly 100 years ago and has been rebuilt and filled with modern reproductions, your time would be better spent going to other sites associated with the battle.

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Birmingham Friend’s Meeting House plaque

Before leaving, make sure you pick up driving directions from the employees at the counter to get to Birmingham Friend’s Meeting House, and Sandy Hollow, the American’s second line of defense during the battle. Also, make sure to purchase the driving tour map of the battle of Brandywine. This map will take you to numerous other historic sites and homes within the Brandywine Valley that witnessed the events of that day. The cost is a mere $2.95. Plan an additional three to four hours to complete the driving tour.

Ultimately the battle proved to be an American defeat. Although he was defeated on the field, Washington and his generals were able to get large portions of the army to the rear through Polish General Pulaski’s assistance in covering the retreat. Despite the best maneuvers to save his army, Washington was unable to save Philadelphia and the city fell to the British just two weeks later on September 26, 1777. The British remained until June 1778.

Lunch

By now a late lunch would be in order.  A great spot is the Black Powder Tavern. A tavern since 1746, it has a great Revolutionary War history, including a supposed visit by Washington himself. The restaurant’s name is related to a historical legend that none other than Von Steuben had ordered the tavern turned into a secret black powder magazine during the army’s pivotal winter at Valley Forge. The food here was great, as was the service and beer selection.

Valley Forge National Historical Park

Following the defeat at Brandywine in September, and another engagement at White Marsh in early December, General Washington looked to put his army into a more secure camp for the coming winter. Active military campaigning for 1777 in Pennsylvania was over.  Just twenty miles northwest of Philadelphia, the Continental Army faced numerous challenges here including a lack of food and shelter. Disease also spread during their time at Valley Forge.  By February 1778, approximately 2,500 soldiers had perished.

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General Anthony Wayne Statue, Valley Forge National Historical Park

To begin your visit here, start at the visitor center. The museum has its challenges. There is no discernible narrative to the exhibits; rather, numerous cases with laminated pieces of paper hanging on the side with corresponding images and item descriptions.  Although there are some unique items on display, if it is busy you could wait at a particular case for the laminated cards to know what you are looking at. After a perusal of the museum, take in the free film. Although it is rather dated it provides a great overview of the winter encampment, its challenges, and outcomes. Between the film and museum, plan on spending an hour at the visitor center.

If you have additional time, take in the one and only National Park Service Ranger program offered. It is a rather short program, in length and walking distance, from the visitor center to the reconstructed Muhlenberg Hut sites. The program also echoes what is presented in the film. Before leaving the visitor center, I recommend getting the auto tour cd, as well as any updates on road closures. The park is currently under a significant amount of construction that has closed some roads and altered the driving tour route. The suggested driving tour cd is two hours in length. This would be a time allotment for those visitors who do not stop at each site, get out of the car, and explore all the stops along the route. You will want to get out and explore monuments such as those to the New Jersey troops, National Memorial Arch, von Steuben, and Patriots of African American Descent. You will also want to explore the several historic homes within the park that were used during the encampment, such as Varnum’s Quarters, Washington’s Headquarters, and the Memorial Chapel.  My explorations, coupled with the driving tour cd, lasted nearly five hours.

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George Washington’s Headquarters (Isaac Potts House) at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Although it would be a long day, it can be done in one; however, if you wish to slow the pace of your visit, each site could be done on a separate day during your weekend. There is plenty of lodging in the area to accommodate this schedule. By visiting both of these historic areas and learning about the events of the fall through early spring 1777-1778, a greater picture can be viewed gleaned of military situation during the time period, as well as the tough composition of the Continental Army despite their defeats.

 

 

 

 

 

*Dan Welch currently serves as a primary and secondary educator with a public school district in northeast Ohio.  Previously, Dan was the education programs coordinator for the Gettysburg Foundation, the non-profit partner of Gettysburg National Military Park, as well as a seasonal Park Ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park for six years. During that time, he led numerous programs on the campaign and battle for school groups, families, and visitors of all ages.

Welch received his BA in Instrumental Music Education from Youngstown State University where he studied under the famed French Hornist William Slocum, and is currently finishing his MA in Military History with a Civil War Era concentration at American Military University. Welch has also studied under the tutelage of Dr. Allen C. Guelzo as part of the Gettysburg Semester at Gettysburg College. He currently resides with his wife, Sarah, in Boardman, Ohio.

 

 

How Did They Communicate?

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Robert “Bert” Dunkerly to the blog as the author of this post. 

It is well known that German troops (commonly called Hessians) fought alongside the British during the war.  One of the more intriguing questions of the Revolution remains; how did they communicate?  At any given time, German units could comprise from one third to one half of the larger British armies. They were also present in equal numbers in smaller detachments.

French was a common language that many European officers would have known, and there is evidence that German and English officers communicated in French during campaigns.  The language barrier also impacted daily army operations.  For example, Georg Pausch of the Hesse-Hanau Artillery requested an English officer who spoke German for a court martial.   Yet most of that procedure was conducted in French.

Written orders from General Phillips in Montreal in 1777 to Hessian Artillery units were given in French, suggesting that this was commonly done in these calm, routine situations.

It wasn’t a perfect system but it worked well enough. Adjutant General Major Bauermister of Hesse-Cassel, for example, notes that the English spoke poor French, when communicating with them. Yet what about among small units like companies or battalions?

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Re-enactors portraying the Hesse Kassel Jaeger Korps
Would mediocre command of a language suffice for communication in combat situations?  Often small groups of British and German troops operated together on patrols or raids.  Marching to Freeman’s Farm (Saratoga) in 1777 was a column that included Germans on the left, English on the right, and English troops as flankers. Such situations required close coordination.

Other times they were side by side on battlefields, such as at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781, where the German Von Bose Regiment was aligned next to the British 71st Highland Regiment. Close coordination in these cases was essential.

Still another example is from Brandywine, where Captain Johann Ewald wrote that in the army’s advance, were 60 jaegers on foot, fifteen mounted jaegers, a company of Highlanders, and a company of British light infantry.  All these troops worked in tandem to protect the army from ambush and clear the way for the advance. Yet Ewald was silent on how they did so.

Captain Ewald, also wrote of his experiences in Virginia, where, in the advance on Richmond, small numbers of troops were interspersed.   They marched into the town in this order: Jaegers, British dragoons, more jaegers, and British Light Infantry.  There are dozens of other examples.

Despite the many instances of German and British units mingling, there is precious little documentary evidence of how officers, or the common soldiers, communicated.  Perhaps they used a combination of French, translators who spoke either English or German, and hand signals or other agreed- upon methods.

Timing and clarity are key in close quarters combat, there is no chance to second guess in an ambush or a raid. There were likely instances of misunderstanding that may have led to mistakes and even led to friendly fire incidents.

Of the many accounts this author has researched, only a few mention how they communicated. Perhaps it was something so mundane, or so well understood, that they saw no need to comment on it in their writings. It is hoped that further research will shed light on this question.

ERW Weekender: The Brandywine Battlefield: A History & Visiting the Field

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Emerging Revolutionary War and Revolutionary War Wednesday is pleased to welcome guest historian and author Michael C. Harris this week. 

The Battle of Brandywine was fought on September 11, 1777.  Visiting the battlefield to commemorate what took place there began just three years later.  On his way to Virginia in 1780, the Marquis de Lafayette made a point of stopping for day at the battlefield where he was wounded and giving a tour to the officers that were travelling with him.  An older Lafayette returned in 1825 during his celebrated 15-month tour of America.

However, it would not be until after the American Civil War during the golden age of preservation that any kind of markers or monuments began to appear around the ten-square-mile landscape.  During the 1877 centennial, artillery pieces were placed to mark the fighting near Sandy Hollow.  Eighteen years later, a monument was dedicated along Birmingham Road supposedly marking the spot where Lafayette was wounded.  Had Lafayette been alive, he would have been able to put out the error in location.

Continue reading “ERW Weekender: The Brandywine Battlefield: A History & Visiting the Field”

James Monroe at War

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Part One

Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome guest historian Scott H. Harris, Director of the James Monroe Museum.

It is one of the great exploits of the American Revolution.  On the night of December 25, 1776, General George Washington led the Continental Army across the icy Delaware River to attack a Hessian garrison at Trenton, New Jersey.  Young Lieutenant James Monroe held the flag behind Washington as they were rowed across the freezing river (standing up).

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware.  Oil on canvas, 1851.  Only two figures in this fictitious image are identified—General George Washington and Lieutenant James Monroe (holding flag).
Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware. Oil on canvas, 1851. Only two figures in this fictitious image are identified—General George Washington and Lieutenant James Monroe (holding flag).

 

Except, that’s not what happened.

Continue reading “James Monroe at War”