Our monthly recap of what our good friend and fellow historian Tom Hand has written on his blog, AmericanaCorner. Also, check out Emerging Revolutionary War’s YouTube page for a “Rev War Revelry” with Tom Hand done earlier this month.
September 21st: Americans with a Shared Future Meet at the Stamp Act Congress
The Stamp Act Congress was held in New York in 1765 in response to the Stamp Act, a piece of legislation passed by Parliament. The Act itself and the events that transpired because of it would prove to be hugely impactful on the destiny of America. Read it here.
September 14th: Fort Ticonderoga: A Key Component in America’s Quest for Independence
Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York is arguably the best-preserved fort from the 1700s in North America. It was the site of several engagements in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Its military significance is matched only by the natural beauty that surrounds the site. Read it here.
September 7th: British Colonies Work Together During the Albany Congress of 1754
The Albany Congress was held in the summer of 1754 and represents the first time the British colonies in North America ever attempted joint action. Unlike the conventions held in later decades, which focused on pushing back against England, the goal of this conference was to help the British in their fight against the French and their Indian allies. Read it here.
On this date in 1775, an early victory was secured for the American cause along the western shore of Lake Champlain in New York. Led by Colonel Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen, over eighty men surprised and overwhelmed Fort Ticonderoga’s garrison, capturing the strategic stronghold and much needed supplies and cannon for the Americans. On May 22, the Pennsylvania Packet reported on the news received from the north:
On Wednesday evening last arrived here, John Brown, Esq; from Ticonderoga, express to the General Congress, from whom we learn, that on the beginning of this instant, a company of about fifty men, from Connecticut, and the western part of Massachusetts, and joined by upwards of one hundred from Bennington, in New-York government, and the adjacent towns, proceeded to the eastern side of Lake Champlain, and on the night before the 11th current, crossed the Lake, with 85 men, (not being able to obtain craft to transport the rest,) and about daybreak invested the fort, whose gate, contrary to expectation, they found shut, but the wicker open, through which, with the Indian war whoop, all that could, entered one by one, others scaling the wall on both sides of the gate, and instantly secured and disarmed the sentries, and pressed into the parade, where they formed the hollow square; but immediately quitting that order, they rushed into the several barracks on three sides of the fort, and seized on the garrison [commanded by Captain William Delaplace], consisting of two officers, and upwards of forty privates, whom they brought out, disarmed, put under guard, and have since sent prisoners to Hartford, in Connecticut. All this was performed in about ten minutes, without the loss of a life, or a drop of blood on our side, and but very little on that of the King’s troops.
In the fort were found about thirty barrels of flour, a few barrels of pork, seventy odd chests of leaden ball, computed at three hundred tons, about ten barrels of powder in bad condition, near two hundred pieces of ordnances of all sizes, from eighteen pounders downwards, at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, which last place, being held only by a corporal and eight men, falls of course into our hands.
By this sudden expedition, planned by some principal persons in the four neighboring colonies, that important pass is now in the hands of the Americans, where we trust the wisdom of the Grand Continental Congress, will take effectual measures to secure it….
The story of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga is as confusing as it is epic. Arnold, a Connecticut man, held a colonel’s commission to take the fort from the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, but he rode ahead to be part of the action without the men he was ordered to raise for the expedition; and Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys of the Hampshire Grants were anti-New York and in search of their own glory after being asked to join a separately organized assault on the fort by Colonel Edward Mott sanctioned by Connecticut.
The irony of all of this is that each plan formulated by those involved was done entirely without the advice or consent of New York, the very colony whose boundaries the fort was within. This occurred all during the commencement of the Second Continental Congress when New York was still weary of escalating hostilities with the King. Regardless of the awkward and unconcerted circumstances, it is undeniable that the fort’s capture helped secure victory for the Americans during the siege of Boston when fifty-eight pieces of ordnance were transported to assist General Washington in driving the British out of the city. Whether or not Allen heroically demanded Capt. Delaplace to surrender, “In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!” as is remembered (he almost definitely did not), is an entirely different question.
So, you have a relative that fought in the American Revolution and you want to know more… now what? Joining an organization, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), is a lengthy and detail-oriented process. It takes patience and perseverance. Before beginning the process, I attended a research seminar hosted by the local chapter to learn about the specific requirements for applying. If you have any experience with records, the one consistent theme is that records do not consistently capture the same information. Some death records do not list birth-dates, birth records do not always list both parents, and worst-case scenario, many records can be lost, stolen or severely damaged.
As I mentioned in part 1, my grandmother provided me with a box of documents detailing the Bitely heritage. The materials she gave me was helpful for pointing my path forward, but it lacked the necessary vital records for completing the application. Luckily, each chapter has a registrar that guides you through finding the right resources and completing the paperwork accurately. The registrar in my chapter was a seasoned member of DAR and walked me step by step through the process. Together, we reviewed the documents from my box, made a family tree and contacted the Michigan vital records department for appropriate birth, death and marriage certificates for each generation between John and me. Thankfully, both New York and Michigan had the records I needed, in good condition and had the required information on them to meet DAR standards. If you hit a snag in the process, there’s an entire community of DAR women who are trained to help you through this. Reach out, we will help!
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Kevin Pawlak. A short bio follows the post below.
On May 25, 1775, the 62nd Regiment of Foot stood for review. The line of men, clad in their redcoats with buff facings, did not impress the reviewing officer. He called the regiment “very much drafted” and “very indifferent.” Despite the disparaging grade, in just over two years, the 62nd Foot commendably fought in one of the fiercest actions of the War for Independence.
Scottish military man Lt. Col. John Anstruther led the 62nd Foot in the campaign of 1777. Anstruther faced no easy task; the 62nd was the junior British regiment in John Burgoyne’s army and most of its men were inexperienced in campaigning and battle. To make the situation even worse, roughly one-quarter of the 62nd Foot’s soldiers were German. Language barriers likely prevented complete cohesion within the unit. However, with a war on, nothing could be done to rectify the regiment’s defects as it marched south into New York.
Anstruther’s regiment was present for the operations around Fort Ticonderoga in early July 1777. After American forces abandoned the fort, the conglomerate and inexperienced 62nd remained behind to man Mount Independence overlooking Lake Champlain. As the rest of Burgoyne’s army continued campaigning, the men of the 62nd Foot spent time guarding themselves against rattlesnakes rather than the enemy. Their time came to rejoin the main army before the Battle of Saratoga commenced.
Just over two weeks ago, ERW historians Billy Griffith, Phillip Greenwalt, Mark Maloy, Rob Orrison and Kevin Pawlak took a long weekend trip up to upstate New York. This was the fourth year that ERW authors have gotten together to take a “field trip” to see sites related to the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.
The trips not only serve as chances for research, but also to make new connections with public historians working in the American Revolution era. Along the way, we posted several videos from locations to give our followers an idea of some of the great places to visit out there. Again, our goal is to not just share this history, but to get people to visit these great sites.
Sites visited on the first day included the Stony Point Battlefield, where Americans under Gen. Anthony Wayne over ran a surprised British outpost. Reading about this action almost rings empty until you stand on the ground. Looking at the steep terrain that Wayne’s men climbed after traversing through a wetland, it is hard to imagine how the Continentals were able to take the British fort with so few casualties. Later that day we made a quick stop at George Washington’s headquarters in Newburgh. Here Washington lived from April 1782 to August 1783 and where he learned of the cease fire with the British, wrote his now famous circular letter to the colonial governors on his vision for the new government. Most importantly, here Washington responded to the Newburgh Conspiracy of his officers looking to possibly over throw the civil government. This site is also important in the history of the museum field as it is the first publicly owned historic site in the United States, opened in 1850 as a museum. A worthwhile nearby site, the New Windsor Cantonment site, preserves the camp site of the Continental Army during the 1782-1783 time period. Several of the buildings are rebuilt, including the Temple of Virtue, where Washington made his impassioned speech to his officers (with the assistance of his glasses) to diffuse their discontent with Congress.
The morning of the second day of the trip was spent visiting sites around Lake George, NY, including some much over looked French and Indian War sites. That afternoon sites along the upper Hudson including the site of the murder of Jane McCrea, Fort Edward and sites in Albany.
Early Sunday morning, a quick trip to the Bennington Battlefield State Park was highlighted with a great personal tour by Bob Hoar. The battlefield is well preserved and interpreted. Bob also shared some of his research into reinterpreting the battlefield using first person accounts and the landscape. Again, understanding the landscape of these places creates such a better understanding.
The majority of the day on Sunday was spent at Saratoga National Historical Park, posting several Facebook Live videos from various points across the battlefield. Also a special visit to the surrender site in Schuylerville which was recently preserved and opened as a memorial by the Friends of Saratoga Battlefield. A great preservation victory that adds to the overall story of Saratoga.
One of the highlights of the trip took place on Monday, where we received a behind the
scenes tour by Fort Ticonderoga staff. We started by learning about the military interpretive program by Ron Vido, Military Programs Supervisor. Anyone who has visited Fort Ticonderoga knows about their quality interpretive staff and programs. Ron also shared with us their plans to slowly restore the Carillon Battlefield (1758), which will be a great addition to the understanding of North America’s bloodiest battle before the Civil War. That afternoon we were treated to a behind the scenes tour of Fort Ticonderoga’s collections storage by Curator Matthew Keagle. The Fort has been collecting 18th century items for nearly 100 years. Their collection is one of the largest collection of 18th century military artifacts in the United States. From a Continental knapsack to an original copy of Baron von Steuben’s drill manual, the collection on display is only a small portion of what the museum owns. Matt also shared the museum’s ongoing work to digitize their collection for the purpose of research. The day was capped off by a visit to one of the best preserved battlefields in the United States, Hubbardton. Fought as part of the Saratoga Campaign, this is Vermont’s only battlefield. The landscape at the foot of the Green Mountains is amazing and the viewsheds are near pristine. A nice state park and visitor center are there to help explain the events of July 7, 1777.
Thank you to all the people that assisted us in this trip and all the sites that were nice enough to host us. We will be posting more on the blog in the future focusing on some of the stories around these amazing sites. Again, we encourage you to take the time to visit all these places. History books are great, but there is no substitute for being in the footsteps of history
With autumn just around the corner, cooler weather on the horizon, and the holidays quickly approaching. Some stores in the local area have Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations all for sale currently, Emerging Revolutionary War wanted to bring your attention to a few different Revolutionary War Era happenings to mark on your calendars. Continue reading “Upcoming Lectures, Talks, and/or Events”→
Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome guest historian David A. Powell to the blog. A biography of David is at the bottom of this post.
The Hudson Valley in upstate New York is one of my favorite historical places – which might come as a surprise to some, given that my usual historical beat is the 1861-1865 time-frame. There are a handful of Civil War related sites along the Hudson, but not many.
But for two centuries before our war between the states, the region was the pathway for commerce, settlement, and conflict. The banks of the Hudson, Lakes George and Champlain, and the St. Lawrence are all dotted with crucial reminders of a violent historical past.
I’ve been to most of these sites; West Point, Bennington and Saratoga battlefields, the site of Fort William Henry, Crown Point, and plenty of other locations. One of them, however, fixes my attention beyond all others:
The fort occupies a strategic place on Lake Champlain, were a land portage connects Champlain to Lake George, and ultimately, the Hudson River.
<Lake Champlain from Fort, looking south>
Originally called Carrillon by the French, who built it in 1755; the fort changed hands several times during the ensuing 25 years. It was unsuccessfully attacked by the British in 1758, and finally captured the next year, part of the British “Annus Mirabilis,” that string of decisive triumphs over the French that reached their crescendo with Wolfe’s victory at Quebec. Two decades later, it figured in the American Revolution; it was wrested from British control by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold in 1775. Its heavy artillery was sledged across many miles of Wilderness snow and ice to reinforce the Rebel army besieging Boston by Henry Knox, which forced the British to abandon that city. In 1776 Ticonderoga was a bulwark of the Patriot defenses on Lake Champlain. In 1777, it was easily re-captured by the British under Burgoyne, but returned to American control after Burgoyne’s disasters of Bennington and Saratoga.
Ticonderoga is fully restored now, owned and maintained by a private foundation that has done an outstanding job of presenting and preserving the Fort’s history. The town and the fort grounds are also dotted with interesting monuments, many erected by British regiments, mainly placed to honor their troops who fought in the Fort’s bloodiest single battle, that of 1758.
British General James Abercrombie led 17,000 troops – colonials and British regulars – against a much smaller garrison of between 4,000 and 5,000 French, Canadian Militia, and Indian Allies. The French, under the Marquis de Montcalm, defended an entrenched line outside of the fort walls, which Abercrombie obligingly assaulted. The British lost 2,000 men, and Abercrombie retreated.
My favorite monument at Ticonderoga is actually paired with another monument erected by the American Colonists in Westminster Abbey (left to right in picture below). They both commemorate the death of Lord George Howe, a Brigadier General in Abercrombie’s army (and elder brother to the Howes of Revolutionary War fame) who embraced irregular warfare.
Lord Howe Monument at Fort Ticonderoga
Memorial to George Augustus, Viscount Howe, in Westminster Abbey, London, England
Go spend an afternoon at Ticonderoga. You won’t be disappointed.
*David A. Powell is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute (1983) with a B.A. in history. He has published numerous articles in various magazines, and more than fifteen historical simulations of different battles.
For the past decade, David’s focus has been on the epic battle of Chickamauga, and he is nationally recognized for his tours of that important battlefield. The result of that study was his first published book, The Maps of Chickamauga (Savas Beatie, 2009).
His latest book is Failure In The Saddle: Nathan Bedford Forrest, Joe Wheeler, and the Confederate Cavalry In the Chickamauga Campaign (Savas Beatie, 2011). He is currently working on a full length monograph of the battle of Chickamauga. The first volume of that work, entitled The Chickamauga Campaign: A Mad Irregular Battle, is scheduled for a 2014 release.
David and his wife Anne live and work in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. He is Vice President of Airsped, Inc., a specialized delivery firm.
On a recent trip to Boston, I was shown by fellow Emerging Revolutionary War historian Rob Orrison, Dorchester Heights. One of my favorite quotes of the entire American Revolutionary War was in reference to the Continental Army’s move to fortify the very heights at Dorchester.
“My God, these fellows have done more work in one night than I could make my army do in three months.” Uttered by General William Howe the morning after the Americans had used the night to build an entire fortification network on the commanding hillsides of Dorchester.
This move, conducted in the secrecy of the night, led to the British evacuation of Boston, after an aborted offensive by the British do a providential snowstorm. Less than two weeks after that influential night, on March 17, 1776, the British evacuated Boston, never to return.
I did not get to spend too much time on the heights but I was able to snap a few pictures, shown below. But, I did have the great fortune to be on the heights at night, looking out over Boston, which has grown just slightly since 1776. A few moments of silence ensued, where I had the chance to mull over what that view must have looked like and what the soldiers who hurriedly dragged the fascines and gabions, and shoveled dirt that night must have worried about as they feverishly tried to finish their duties.
The cannon that bore down on Boston from the heights of Dorchester Heights were a product of one of the greatest feats of the entire war. Former Boston bookseller turned artillerist extraordinaire had brought the heavy armament on an arduous trek, through the late stages of winter from upstate New York to the Continental Army besieging Boston.
Henry Knox was the man behind the delivery and he would serve as George Washington’s Chief of Artillery before the war was over. Afterwards, Knox would become the first Secretary of War in Washington’s Administration. At Dorchester Heights, with Washington’s planning and Knox’s delivery the city of Boston was liberated without firing a shot.
The heights retained its military importance through the end of the War of 1812. By the end of the 19th century, in 1898, the General Courts of Massachusetts had commissioned a monument to stand on what remained of the heights. The white marble Georgian revival tower that stands 115 feet, commemorates that night in 1776 that American soldiers did what British soldiers would take months to complete. By 1978, after a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the monument and remaining hill site was handed to the National Park Service by the city of Boston. Dorchester Heights became part of Boston National Historical Park which was established in 1974.
When planning a visit to Boston National Historical Park and to Dorchester Heights, which is open to visitation, both during the day and at night please consult the website for the national park here. That way you can familiarize yourself with the regulations and how to make the most of your visit.