The March from White Marsh

From November 2, 1777 until early-December, General George Washington and the Continental Army occupied a defensive position at White Marsh, approximately 13 miles northwest of Philadelphia. In early December, a series of small skirmishes erupted along the American lines in the last actions of the campaigning season of 1777. Frustrated by Washington’s refusal to emerge from his entrenchments, Sir William Howe led his British columns back to their winter abode in Philadelphia.

Washington moved the army shortly thereafter toward Valley Forge and their winter cantonment, arriving in that vicinity on December 19. As Washington prepared for the winter of 1777-1778 you can also start the preparations to follow this route with Emerging Revolutionary War on the weekend of November 11 – 13, 2022 on the Rise of the American Army: Valley Forge and the Battle of Monmouth Bus Tour. To secure your spot and further information, click here (or the link on the banner at the top of this page).

African Americans Serving in the American Revolution

If you tuned into our “Rev War Revelry” with historian and author John U. Rees on Sunday, you may have heard him mention a few links and a blog where he adds information that did not make it into the book. Or has come to light since the publication of his history “They Were Good Soldiers: African-Americans in the Continental Army, 1775-1783.”

John was nice enough to provide the following as a follow-up for those interested in reading more into the subject.

African Americans Serving in the Armies of the Revolution
(PDF, click here).

Book:

“They Were Good Soldiers”,  

Additional post-publication updates and information: 

List of soldiers and women featured in the book. 

African American soldier-servants. 

African American women with the army. 

Author interviews pertaining to the book. 

Entries for blog:

“More ‘Good Soldiers’”: 

Revised percentages for 1778 army “Return of Negroes.” 

Officers’ observations of black Continental soldiers. 

Ranney’s painting “Cowpens” and black cavalry soldiers. 

List of soldiers and women featured in the book. 

Black Continental soldiers at the Battle of Monmouth. 

Printed 19th century remembrances of black veterans 

Articles

Articles the book was based on including African Americans in Southern Continental regiments plus transcribed pension files used for that study.  

Jeffrey Brace, African slave and Continental soldier 

Other authors:  

Black soldier motivations (Scoggins) 

Loyalist Ethiopian Regiment (Copeland) 

Black soldiers at New Windsor cantonment (Thorenz) 

Hannah Till, wartime servant to Washington (Cole) 

Thomas Carney, Maryland Continental (Calder) 

Black Hessians (Jones) 

Military role of black Loyalists (Braisted) 

Author Discussion ERW Facebook Live:

To watch the interview with John, click over to Emerging Revolutionary War’s Facebook page and click on the “Videos” tab. To access the page, click here.

Continental Soldiers
The two of soldiers on the left, drawn in 1781 by French Sublieutenant Jean-Baptiste-Antoine de Verger, Royal Deux-Ponts Regiment, are a private of the Rhode Island Regiment, and a soldier of Hazen’s Canadian Regiment. The next in line is a Virginia rifleman, while the last man is a Continental artileryman. Howard C. Rice and Anne S.K. Brown, eds. and trans., The American Campaigns of Rochambeau’s Army 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783, vol. I (Princeton, N.J. and Providence, R.I.,: Princeton University Press, 1972), between pages 142-143 (description on page xxi). Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University.  

“Rev War Roundtable with ERW” Focuses on African American soldiers during the American Revolution with author and historian, John U. Rees

Baron Ludwig von Closen, aide–de–camp to French General Rochambeau, wrote in July 1781: 

 “I had a chance to see the American Army, man for man. It is really painful to see those brave men, almost naked with only some trousers and little linen jackets, most of them without stockings, but, would you believe it, very cheerful and healthy in appearance … It is incredible that soldiers composed of men of every age, even children of fifteen, of whites and blacks, unpaid and rather poorly fed, can march so fast and withstand fire so steadfastly’.” 

During the American Revolution, African-Americans, both freed and enslaved, fought for the patriots. Some wielded muskets in militia outfits whereas others were part of the Continental army. African-Americans were there from the Siege of Boston through the end of the conflict. In fact, until the Korean War the American Revolution was the last time a United States military force was integrated in time of war.

Although publications have been printed about the 1st Rhode Island or comparative studies between Africans that served for the British or patriots. However, the field needed a dedicated study of African-Americans that served in the Continental army. Enter John U. Rees.

A lifelong Bucks County, Pennsylvanian who has studied and written about the soldiery of the American Revolution for the past three decades. He is published many times over and this Sunday, he will join Emerging Revolutionary War at 7 p.m. on “Rev War Revelry.”

The discussion will include his new book, “They Were Good Soldiers’: African-Americans Serving in the Continental Army, 1775-1783.” Which is now available for purchase online. ‘They Were Good Soldiers’: African Americans Serving in the Continental Army, 1775-1783 begins by discussing the inclusion and treatment of black Americans by the various Crown forces (particularly British and Loyalist commanders, and military units). The narrative then moves into an overview of black soldiers in the Continental Army, before examining their service state by state. Each state chapter looks first at the Continental regiments in that state’s contingent throughout the war, and then adds interesting black soldiers’ pension narratives or portions thereof. The premise is to introduce the reader to the men’s wartime duties and experiences. The book’s concluding chapters examine veterans’ post-war fortunes in a changing society and the effect of increasing racial bias in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. 

Besides the book dialogue, a general conversation about the roles of African-Americans in the American Revolutionary period. So, find your favorite brew, bring your questions and insights, and join John Rees and ERW on Sunday evening on our Facebook page.

For more articles by our guest historian John Rees, visit https://tinyurl.com/Rees-author-only . An online compendium of articles on African Americans in the Revolutionary era is available at https://tinyurl.com/Afr-Amer-Rev-War . 

“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”

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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””

On this date in….1776

A few random musings on the importance of this date in American Revolutionary history…

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President’s chair, Independence Hall, Independence National Historical Park (author collection)

This day was the date that the assembled Second Continental Congress voted on the draft of a document that was Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia had put forth in a measure, in June, to be voted on declaring;

“That these United Colonies are, and of right out to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

220px-Thomas_McKean_by_Charles_Willson_Peale
Thomas McKean by Charles Wilson Peale

On July 4, two days after this resolution passed, the final and formal version was approved by Congress. John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress affixed his signature boldly and largely at the bottom of the document. Eventually 55 other men would place their signature on the Declaration of Independence, with Thomas McKean, generally accepted, as the last to sign the document, possibly as late as January 1777.

Copies were made and four days later, on July 8, the first public reading occurred in Philadelphia. George Washington had the document read to the Continental Army in New York on the following day, July 9.

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John Adams by Gilbert Stuart

For John Adams, future second president of the United States, the second day of July would and should be the day to remember American Independence, as he wrote;

“The most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival…It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

And that is how many Americans choose to celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, however, usually two days later on July 4th. Yet, it took another war; World War II, for July 4th to become a national paid holiday for workers of the Federal government when Congress approved it in 1941.

So, happy Independence Day!

*Feel free to add any interesting historical tidbits about the Second Continental Congress, the signers, or 1776 below!*

 

Thanksgiving with the Continental Army, 1777

Abraham Lincoln usually gets the credit for establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863.  He deserves much of it for making it an annual event.  But, Lincoln was harkening back to an earlier practice of giving thanks amidst the trials and tribulations of war, whether it was going well or not.  The tradition predated the Revolutionary War generation, but they were as apt to a hold national day of giving thanks as any of their predecessors or successors in American history.  Continue reading “Thanksgiving with the Continental Army, 1777”

Uncovering the Continental Army in Morristown

Part of an ongoing series of about the Continental Army in Morristown, New Jersey. For the first post, click here.

Across the street from the Ford Mansion, the elegant home of the Jacob Ford, Jr. and his family, and the headquarters for George Washington during the winter encampment of 1779-1780, sits a small boulder with a iron plaque plastered on the side.IMG_0027

Erected in 1932 by the Tempe Wicke Society Children of the American Revolution, the monument commemorates the Life Guards that served as Washington’s headquarters command during the American Revolution. Although the unit went by different names and reorganized at least twice, including once during the winter encampment at Morristown, the company, numbering approximately 150 men, would be around for the duration of the war. Continue reading “Uncovering the Continental Army in Morristown”

Uncovering the Continental Army in Morristown

Part of an ongoing series about the Continental Army in Morristown, New Jersey. To read previous posts, click here.

All that remains is a historical marker, on the side of North Park Place across the street from Morristown Green. For a few months, between January 1777 and May 1777, in this location, the headquarters of the Continental Army was located. Within that headquarters, obviously, was George Washington.

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Arnold’s Tavern historic sign (author’s collection)

Although no specific date of construction exists, it is believed that Arnold’s Tavern was built by Samuel Arnold between 1735 and 1750. By the time of the American Revolution owned by the son, Colonel Jacob Arnold. The structure was three stories high, with a wide hallway that bisected the building, a front and back parlor, barroom, dining room, and kitchen. Continue reading “Uncovering the Continental Army in Morristown”

Uncovering the Continental Army in Morristown

Part of an ongoing series of about the Continental Army in Morristown, New Jersey. For the first post, click here.

“The smallpox has made such head in every quarter that I find it impossible to keep it from spreading thro’ the whole army the natural way.” General George Washington wrote in February 1777.

By the time the Continental Army was encamped in Morrristown, Washington had become a firm believer in the inoculations for smallpox for the entire army. The inoculation process would entail the following: Continue reading “Uncovering the Continental Army in Morristown”