East Florida Rangers

When thirteen North American colonies rebelled against the British crown, the future state of Florida was not part of that movement. In fact, the settled part of the future 27th state of the United States was partitioned into East and West Florida. Both colonies also declined an invitation to send delegates to the Continental Congress.

East & West Florida colonies

West Florida, spanned from slightly east of Pensacola, which was the capital, across to Louisiana and included parts of modern Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, and Mississippi. East Florida, spanned the rest of northern Florida from the Apalachicola River to the Atlantic seaboard and down the peninsula. The capital was located at St. Augustine, founded in 1565 by the Spanish.

During the American Revolution, both East and West Florida would play a role as the rebellion spread into a world conflict, bringing into the fighting the European nations of France and Spain. In East Florida, St. Augustine would send north British soldiers to assist in operations in Georgia and South Carolina and also house American prisoners, including three Signers of the Declaration of Independence; Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge, and Thomas Heyward, Jr. Other prisoners, both Americans and French were also confined to the town too.

Continue reading “East Florida Rangers”

George Washington’s Land Interest in British West Florida, 1773-1774

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian George Kotlik.

After the French & Indian War, the British Crown sought to regulate colonial westward settlement and expansion. This was done for a variety of reasons. First, British ministers believed that westward expansion would require administration over newly acquired territory.[1] British leaders also feared that unrestricted colonial expansion could lead to ungovernable colonies who would, over time, seek to split with Great Britain.[2] Most importantly, Britain had acquired Florida and almost all of the territory under New France east of the Mississippi River at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War. British ministers sought to redirect western settlement towards Canada and the Florida’s.[3] Regulation of western land settlement also protected Indian lands from white encroachments. This measure sought to prevent further Indian wars.[4] The impositions placed on westward settlement infuriated colonial land speculators who sought to gain much wealth in acquiring western lands. After the Great War for Empire, George Washington and other veteran officers of that conflict were awarded land in exchange for their services to the Crown.[5] Many eyed lands in the Ohio Country, but after the October 7 Proclamation of 1763, most acreage in that vast wilderness lay out of reach. The account of Washington’s interest in North America’s western lands is popular and well-known. However, lesser known is the former British officer’s interest in West Florida land.[6]

Continue reading “George Washington’s Land Interest in British West Florida, 1773-1774”

Savannah, an International Engagement

Last week I wrote about the various German principalities that contributed manpower to the British attempt to subdue the colonies. I ended the post with:

“An introduction to another aspect of how the American Revolution had far reaching international complications and commitments.”

I figured this week I would return to that theme and share a portion of the Battle of Savannah in 1779, from the perspective of how many nationalities had native sons take part in the fighting.

Besides the three obvious nationalities; British, German, French, and American, the following countries represented; Ireland, Haiti, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland.

The British commander was General Augustine Prevost, who was born in the Republic of Geneva on August 22, 1723 and like an older brother joined the British army. He saw action in the French and Indian War with the 60th Regiment of Foot and at the conclusion of that conflict even served a brief term as governor of West Florida.

During the American Revolution he was ordered to invade Georgia in 1778 and had taken command at Savannah in January 1779, although he wanted to resign in favor of a younger officer to take charge. His replacement was captured while enroute to relieve Prevost, thus the Genevan was still in charge during the subsequent siege and fighting in September and October 1779.

Curt von Stedingk, hailed from Swedish Pomerania in 1746 and by the time of the Siege of Savannah he had been tabbed to lead part of the offensive. He made it to the British entrenchments where he valiantly placed the American standard. Stedingk was wounded in the fighting. He received a decoration from the French and after the American Revolution George Washington invited him into the Society of Cincinnati. This created some controversy in his native Sweden as the king, Gustav III forbade Stedingk from wearing the ribbon and medal as it was from his service to a “revolting people.” He went on to have a long military career, including fighting Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig.

Henri Christophe, the only monarch of the Kingdom of Haiti, was a drummer boy in a French regiment during the Siege of Savannah. The unit, the Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint-Domingue was comprised of various ethnicities hailing from the island of Saint Domingue. Christophe may have been wounded around Savannah. He would distinguish himself in the Haitian Revolution before claiming his kingdom and naming himself monarch on March 28, 1811.

Casimir Pulaski, nicknamed “the father of American cavalry” was mortally wounded by canister while attempting to rally retreating French forces. The grapeshot that felled the Warsaw, Poland native is on display in Savannah or Charleston, depending on what account you believe; or possibly neither? He never regained consciousness and died on board the ship Wasp two days after his wound on October 11.

Arthur Dillon and his “Wild Geese” Irish Regiment, in the employ of the French, also took part in the failed attempt to subdue Savannah. Dillon, born in 1750, continued in the French service until being executed in Paris in 1794 due to his royalist leanings.

With such an international cast of personas, which did include rank-and-file from the countries not listed, the Siege of Savannah showed the global reverberations the conflict had. The preserved plot of land pays homage to this fact, which, if nothing else brings you to want to visit the city, is reason enough!

The Post Script

At 3:00 in the afternoon on April 21, 1781 Virginia militia Colonel James Innes sat down to write a letter near Hickory Neck Church, just shy of the halfway point between Virginia’s old colonial capitol at Williamsburg and its new capitol at Richmond. Perhaps with a heavy heart and a weary hand, Innes picked up his pen to scrawl a letter to Governor Thomas Jefferson. The situation in Virginia was bleak. It had only been a year since, in apprehension of a British attack, the Virginia Assembly voted to move the seat of government from the Peninsula west to Richmond, and along with it the public stores for outfitting, equipping, and otherwise supporting Virginia’s patriot forces in the fifth and sixth years of the war with the British. The gamble hadn’t paid off. January 1781 saw Benedict Arnold’s forces sacking Richmond. Everywhere they went, it seems, a new combined force of British, Hessian, and Loyalist forces left destruction in its wake.

he approximate landing site of the the main body of British soldiers with Col. Simcoe’s detachment landing further downstream in an effort to catch the Virginians by surprise. “…On a signal given, they all, except the gun-boat turned and rowed rapidly towards the point where the landing was to take place…” (author collection)
Continue reading “The Post Script”

Review: Rick Atkinson, The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Joshua Shepherd to the blog who reviewed the book mentioned above. Short bio of Joshua is at the bottom of this post.

In recent years, there’s been a fortunate resurgence of interest in the Revolution and founding era. To meet the mounting demand for Revolutionary history, some of the nation’s most gifted popular authors have written highly successful volumes that cover the War for Independence and the Early Republic.

Some outstanding books have consequently gone to press, but, by and large, the publications have very often been biographies; occasionally, publishing houses introduce monographs that cover a single campaign. From professional circles, much of the new scholarly research focuses on the currently-vogue academic preference for social history. At least in recent decades, the relative paucity of military history has left an appreciable gap in the historiography of the Revolution. With the release of The British Are Coming, author Rick Atkinson has met a vital need for an up-to-date and comprehensive military history of the American Revolution.

Continue reading “Review: Rick Atkinson, The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777”

ERW Weekender: Remember Paoli!

On the night of September 20, 1777, while encamped in Chester County, PA just outside Philadelphia, a division of American soldiers was defeated in a swift surprise attack by a slightly smaller British force. American propagandists, in an effort to galvanize Patriot support, would make the most of this encounter to show the British Army as overly brutal and bloodthirsty. On the foggy morning of December 9, 2019, members of the ERW paid a call on this battle site; Paoli Battlefield Historical Park.

American Camp
Paoli Battlefield Historical Park

Continue reading “ERW Weekender: Remember Paoli!”

Annis Boudinot Stockton, Mythmaking, and the American Revolution (cont.)

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Blake McGready for part two of the series. To read part one, click here.

While her poetry avoided wartime setbacks and conjured stories of revolutionary unity, Stockton’s poems did confront the violent realities of what she called “a most cruel and eventful war”. Her choice allusions demonstrate how, in her mind, wartime violence bound the revolutionaries together. Following the death of General Joseph Warren at the battle of Bunker Hill she lamented, “That heart, which, studious of his countries good / Held up her rights and seal’d them with his blood!” In 1776 Stockton wrote of revolutionary soldiers who “fought and bled to save their native land / From bowing to a tyrant’s stern command,” and honored great men dying on battlefields “Made fertile by the blood of heroes slain.” Whereas historians have noted how the war’s violence was often deliberately excluded from the popular imagination, by contrast, Stockton’s war and violence were inseparable.[i]

Continue reading “Annis Boudinot Stockton, Mythmaking, and the American Revolution (cont.)”

The Ring Fight and the Emergence of Andrew Pickens

While the Second Continental Congress met in the early summer of 1776, colonists in the far away backcountry of South Carolina faced a threat from a perennial foe, the Cherokees. While delegates debated a declaration of independence, war parties struck settlements between the Broad and Saluda Rivers in the Ninety Six District. In response to these raids, militia Major Andrew Williamson mustered his Ninety Six regiment. Augmented by militia from the Carolinas and Virginia, he commenced a campaign against the Cherokee villages along the eastern face of the Blue Ridge.

General Andrew Pickens of South Carolina

Williamson struck at Esseneca on August 1. The colonials sustained twenty casualties but forced the warriors to abandon the village. Over the course of the next week, Williamson moved further into enemy territory. Rather than engage his force, the Cherokees retreated before the advance. Williamson burned a number of towns including Oconee, Estatoe and Toxaway.

The regiment reached Tamassee on August 12. Once again, Williamson found the village abandoned. He decided to send out scouting parties to examine the nearby hills. One of the patrols was led by a company commander from the Long Canes region of South Carolina, Captain Andrew Pickens. He took with him about sixty men. To cover more ground, Pickens divided his group and continued on with thirty five militiamen.

“Soldiers and Countrymen…”

Before the horrific terrorist attacks that struck the United States on September 11, 2001, this date in American history saw the longest single day engagement with the highest number of combatants during the entire American Revolution fought in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Known to history as the Battle of Brandywine, approximately 30,000 soldiers were involved and 1,887 became casualties, the majority, 1,300 being Americans. One of those 1,300 individuals was Reverend or Chaplain Joab Trout, from New Hampshire.

Battle of Brandywine
(courtesy of NYPL)

The night before the engagement, he gave the following sermon beat the evening call on the eve of battle. And 242 years later the words still echo with a sense of patriotism and stoicism for a cause that was worth fighting and dying for. Below is the full sermon:

“De Kalb has died, as he has lived, the unconquered friend of liberty”

Johann_de_Kalb
Johann de Kalb (Charles Willson Peale)

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””