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.
Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to share the post below by guest historian Kerry Mitchell
Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Richard Henry Lee, George Mason, Patrick Henry…when thinking about the period before and during the American Revolution these names come up as some of the great Virginians who were involved in the founding of our nation. While these men were great on their own accounts, there were other Virginian men who helped shaped our nation. Thomas Blackburn of Prince William County is one of these who history tends to glance over even though during the 1760s and 1770s, he was an important figure in American history.
Thomas was born in Prince William County around 1742 to Richard and Mary (nee Watts) Blackburn. Richard Blackburn was a native from Ripon, England who came over in the early 1700s and settled in Gloucester County, Virginia before moving to Prince William County in 1733. In addition to being a carpenter and farmer, Richard was involved in Prince William County politics and served as a Justice of the Peace. Not much is known about Thomas’s early childhood. He inherits his family home and farm, Rippon Lodge in 1760. That same year he marries Christian Scott with whom he has six children with. By 1762, Thomas receives a captain’s commission from the governor. With the French and Indian War ending it is unclear to what extent he served. We do know that in September 1766 he was serving as a Justice of the Peace for Prince William County. In 1772, Thomas was elected to be one of the Prince William representatives to the House of Burgesses.
Thomas’s election to the House coincided with the brewing unrest brewing between the colonists and Great Britain. After the Boston Tea Party and Britain’s passage of the intolerable Acts, Thomas was amongst the group of members who drafted the resolution that would call for a day of prayer and fasting for the people of Boston. Lord Dunmore believed the resolution was an insult to King George III and he dissolved the House on My 26th. Thomas was among the 22 ex-members who met at Raleigh Tavern and decided they would support a continental boycott of British goods. He went back to Prince William County to have the resolution passed by county leaders (which they did on June 6th). From 1774-1776, Thomas served in the first four Virginia conventions and involved himself in many committees dealing with the unrest. He was part of the committee offering George Washington the command of Virginia’s militia and as well as the committee with George Mason and Henry Lee II raising troops to defend Virginia. In the spring of 1776, Thomas lost his seat to attend the 5th Virginia Convention to Cuthbert Bullitt.
After losing his seat to Bullitt, Thomas was appointed as a Lt. Colonel of the 2nd Virginia State Regiment. After being passed over for a promotion, Thomas gave in his resignation on June 10, 1777. While he was out of the army officially, Thomas did not stay out of the fight for long. He rejoined the Virginia Militia as a volunteer. He fought at the battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania in October 1777. During this battle, he was wounded in the leg which ended his military career. He returned to Rippon Lodge in Woodbridge, Virginia to continue farming and entertaining his many friends. This included George Washington whom Thomas became related to through marriage when his daughter, Julia Ann, married George’s nephew, Bushrod Washington. On July 7, 1807, Thomas passed away at Rippon Lodge where he is buried in the family cemetery.
*Originally from New York, Kerry Mitchell is currently the Historic Interpreter at Rippon Lodge Historic Site, part of Prince William County’s Historic Preservation Division. She has a B.A. in Historic Preservation from the University of Mary Washington, a M.A. in American History from George Mason University and a graduate certificate in Museum Collection Care and Management from The George Washington University. She has previously worked at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Reston Historic Trust, and the Fire Island National Seashore.*
The night was chilly, snow laid on the streets and walks of Boston, and the cold air kept people bundled up around the port town of Massachusetts colony.
Yet, the cold air could not dampen was the seething resentment a growing number of Bostonians were feeling toward the occupying British military. Minor brawls and exchanges had taken place in the various taverns and around the bustling harbor; common places where alcohol and/or hard work created short tempers.
However, on this night, March 5, 1770, outside the Custom House on King Street a British redcoat infantrymen, the sentry, kept his post. Private Hugh White, whose shift it was to stand guard, would have noticed the approach of Edward Garrick, who had come calling for a British officer who owed Garrick’s boss money for his wig services. Unbeknownst to Garrick, the apprentice, the debt had been paid, so no response from the field officer was forthcoming.
A response from White was forthcoming, who admonished the young man to have a more respectful tone when speaking to an officer in His Majesty, the King’s service. Garrick did not take too kindly to this tone and responded with an insult of his own toward White.
This prompted White to leave his post and literally knock some sense into Garrick by way of a musket strike to the side of the head. Garrick yelped in agony and a companion took up the verbal barrage toward the British soldier.
The cacophony created by the yelling of insults and as the colonial version of a game of telephone spread the message about what was transpiring at the Customs House. Church bells were rung, a telltale sign that something was afoot, led to the crowd surging past 50 in number by the evening.
White, prudently, had left his post and retreated up onto the steps of the Customs House summoned a runner (messenger) to race to the local barracks for extra manpower.As was custom, there was an officer of the watch, in this case, Captain Thomas Preston and seven soldiers responded.
En route, Henry Know, destined to become chief of artillery for the Continental Army in the American Revolution urged Preston, “For God’s sake, take care of your men, if they fire, you must die.”
Against this sage advice, shouts of “Fire” were emanating from the crowd, which had also resorted to throwing snowballs and spitting in the direction of the red-coated soldiers. Other derogatory names for British soldiers, like “lobsterbacks” which took into account the red uniforms adorned by the British infantry were also heard being shouted.
The British soldiers, with loaded muskets, and Captain Preston reached White’s station, the British officer ordered the large crowd to disperse. Preston had taken a position in front of his soldiers and had told a member of the crowd that his soldiers would not fire unless ordered.
No order was ever given.
Shortly after Preston spoke those words to a Bostonian, a foreign object hurtled toward Private Hugh Montgomery and knocked the infantryman off his feet. His musket clattered onto the steps. Standing up, Montgomery reportedly yelled “Damn you, fire!” and pulled the trigger of his musket. The accompanying “bang” reverberated in the square.
And then there was a pause of an uncertain length.
This silence was broken by the staccato of other muskets being fired. A few rounds belched forth from the British soldiers. Screams and shouts along with deafening echo of the discharge of black-powder muskets in an enclosed city square mixed with the sickening thud of lead impacting bone and body.
All told, eleven colonists were hit from the volley fire. Three were killed outright; Samuel Gray, James Caldwell, and Crispus Attucks. One more, Samuel Maverick, who was struck by a ricocheting round would die later that same evening. One more, a recent immigrant from Ireland, Patrick Carr, would succumb to his wounds a fortnight later.
In the immediate aftermath, Preston would call the majority of his unit, the 29th Regiment of Foot to the scene. With the mob spilling out of the Customs House Square, Governor Thomas Hutchinson, the acting governor, was able to temporarily restore a semblance of tranquility with the promise that a fair trial of what transpired that March 5th evening would happen.
The trial would be a major event for the city of Boston, but, that was in the near future. With the shots fired and the citizens struck, the burgeoning independence movement had a rallying point. Lives were lost that night, but, the events that followed would, to the proponents of American independence, make them martyrs for the cause.
When one heads to the Historic Triangle of Jamestown-Williamsburg-Yorktown, Virginia becoming immersed in early American History is almost a given.
At the same time, when one is looking for fashion in the area, the Premium Outlets in Williamsburg would usually be the direction one would head.
However, thanks to Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center, fashion and American history come together. But, the clothing styles does not end with just Colonial American history, as fashion from British military uniforms to Native American and West African cultures will also be on display. Continue reading “Fashion in the Historic Triangle”→