Secrets of the Patriot Limbers

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Karl G. Elsea

When visiting Revolutionary War battlefields there are often replica field guns on the grounds. Not shown, in almost all cases, is the vehicle that pulled the gun to the battle – the limber. Though less “cool” it was essential.

Author’s limber and photo. Obsolescent British design with cart hook-up hardware modification

Today, there is no surviving original Patriot field gun limber from the American Revolutionary War. That is a problem when attempting to reproduce representative Patriot field gun limbers. The normal starting place, Muller’s A Treatise of Artillery, does not include information concerning British field (light) gun limbers. Muller’s Treatise only contains information on limbers for medium and heavy guns.

The absence of any original limbers is especially gulling because the Patriots had access to both obsolescent designs and the most advanced designs. The Hessian field gun limber was probably the most advanced limber design in 1776, and the Patriot forces captured six of them at Trenton on December 26, 1776. The Hessian limber design had three important improvements; firstly, the pintle (pin that connects the gun carriage to the limber) was behind the axle of the limber thus allowing a shorter turning radius and less likely damage to the gun carriage. Secondly, an ammunition box containing sixty rounds was on the limber. Thirdly, two wheel-horses were used instead of one thill horse thus providing twice the braking power. It would be interesting to know if the Patriots reproduced or incorporated those design elements.

Continue reading “Secrets of the Patriot Limbers”

“Rev War Roundtable with ERW” Looks West….

The majority of the study of the American Revolution centers on the main theaters of the war, chiefly east of the Appalachian Mountains and on the high seas. Obviously. Yet, what is considered today the Midwest or Great Lakes region saw action that had an impact on the outcome of the war, American independence, British occupation, and Native American life.

Termed “the west” this area encompassed the future states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas, and others along the Mississippi River and Great Lakes.

This area will be the focus of the next “Rev War Revelry” on Sunday, August 23 at 7 p.m. EST on our Facebook page. Join Emerging Revolutionary War historians, historian and Gabe Neville, of the 8th Virginia blog who will return for more discussion and revelry.

Joining us this evening will be another historian making his debut on “Rev War Revelry.” That newcomer is Joe Herron, Chief of Interpretation at George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes, Indiana.

So, grab your favorite drink and join us for an evening talking the likes of George Rogers Clark, Daniel Boone, and the personas and campaigns of the American west during the American Revolution.

The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, Part 2

An Englishman on the Frontier

Part 1 click here.

Nicholas Cresswell left Alexandria for the Illinois Country on March 16, 1775, his correspondence as yet unknown to the local Committee of Safety.  The Ohio River served as a highway to the west, so he headed for its origin at Pittsburgh.  Along the way, he stopped to visit the battlefield where French and Indian forces defeated Major General Edward Braddock in July, 1755.  Cresswell and his traveling companions found “great numbers of bones, both men and horses.  The trees are injured, I suppose by the Artillery…the greatest slaughter seems to have been made within 400 yards of the River…We could not find one whole skull, all of them broke to pieces in the upper part, some of them had holes broken in them about an inch diameter, suppose it to be done with a Pipe Tomahawk.”[i]

Monongaela Battle (Library of Congress)
Initial Dispositions of the Battle of the Monongahela.  Cresswell walked the battlefield on his way to Pittsburgh in 1775.  (Library of Congress)

Continue reading “The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, Part 2”

Battle of Fort San Carlos – Westernmost Battle of the American Revolution

St. Louis, Missouri is considered the gateway to the west for the United States beginning in the 19th century. In the 18th century, St. Louis was not on the radar of many in the burgeoning United States.

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Western Reach of the Revolution, wayside informational tablet at Gateway Arch National Park (author collection)

However, the westernmost engagement of the American Revolution unfolded in the town of St. Louis, crushing British designs to conquer the territory from the Spanish, who were allied with the French and thus the United States.

On May 26, 1780, a hodgepodge force of 300 townsfolk, free and enslaved blacks, French settlers, and Spanish soldiers rallied to defend their town from the advance of a combined British and Native American force. Continue reading “Battle of Fort San Carlos – Westernmost Battle of the American Revolution”

Book Review: Peckuwe 1780, by John F. Winkler

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John F. Winkler, Peckuwe 1780: The Revolutionary War on the Ohio River Frontier, (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2018).   $24.00

I once read a review comparing Osprey Publishing’s monographs on particular battles, weapons, uniforms, or campaigns to “flash cards,” which made me smile.  As a kid, I somehow acquired stacks of flashcards laying out the technical specs of various military aircraft or ships and thought they were the greatest things since sliced bread.  Those were the days before Amazon or Barnes & Noble, when a kid had to depend on the local library and Waldenbooks for books about history, which they didn’t have in large numbers.  The Osprey monographs were a windfall of sorts when the local library started carrying them.  They’re not intended for an academic audience by any stretch, but can play a useful role in interesting popular audiences in places, people, and events that might otherwise prove too obscure or too intimidating for a young or casual reader.  So, when I came across John F. Winkler’s new monograph for Osprey, Peckuwe 1780, I snapped it up as much for sentimental reasons as for my interest in the American Revolution on the western frontier.

Continue reading “Book Review: Peckuwe 1780, by John F. Winkler”

George Rogers Clark Recaptures Fort Sackville, Part II

Vincenes (Army Center of Military History)
Hamilton Surrenders Fort Sackville (U.S. Army Center for Military History)

By February 23, 1779–two hundred and forty years ago—Virginia Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark had marched his little army from the Mississippi across the flooded plains of what would become southern Illinois to the French town of Vincennes on the Wabash River, in modern Indiana.  His men were tired, hungry, and waterlogged, but they had made it safely across the Wabash and delivered themselves to the same shore as the town and Fort Sackville, then defended by the much-hated British Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton.  His river scouts had managed to find a small, dry hillock covered by a grove of trees and within sight of the town and Clark’s force, about 170 strong, lay in the grove drying their clothes by the sun, occasionally taking a wandering citizen from the town prisoner.   Clark later reported:

Continue reading “George Rogers Clark Recaptures Fort Sackville, Part II”

George Rogers Clark Recaptures Fort Sackville, Part I

March to Vincennes (Wikimedia Commons)
March to Vincennes by Frederick Coffay Yohn, 1875-1933 (Wikimedia Commons–Most of Clark’s men would not have dressed in the blue uniforms visible here, but would have dressed in fur and buckskin like the individual in the middle of the picture.)

Last fall, I posted several pieces following British Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton’s campaign in the Illinois territory as seen through the eyes of Captain Norman MacLeod.  MacLeod led an advance party stuck with the logistical and diplomatic mission of moving 33,000 pounds of supplies and trade goods south from Detroit in order to mobilize the local Indian tribes as British allies.  Hamilton’s campaign culminated with the successful capture of Fort Sackville (Vincennes, IN) on December 17, 1778.  Since it’s the 240th anniversary of the campaign, I thought I’d continue the series by shifting to the American perspective, particularly that of Virginia Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark and one of his Captains, Joseph Bowman.  This is not a campaign history by any stretch.  It’s meant more to be considered in combination with portions of MacLeod’s diary that appeared last fall.  Taken together, they might give rise to a few different ideas about the Americans and British fighting the Revolution on the frontier.

Although he planned to recapture the entire Illinois territory, Hamilton decided to winter at Fort Sackville and resume his campaign in the spring.  He dismissed the bulk of his force, settling in at the fort with just under 100 men.  Normally, this would have been a prudent choice.  Hamilton did not expect Clark to retake the field until spring brought about the customary campaign season and dispersing his army eased the logistical burden of maintaining so many men idle in the wilderness.  Hamilton had under-estimated the meddle of his adversary.

Continue reading “George Rogers Clark Recaptures Fort Sackville, Part I”

Hamilton Recaptures Fort Sackville: Norman MacLeod’s Campaign Journal, December 17, 1778

(An occasional series highlighting British Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton’s march south from Detroit to recapture Vincennes (Indiana) on its 240th anniversary through the entries in Captain Norman MacLeod’s diary.)

Fort Sackville Map Inset, (Nova Scotia Archives and Record Management, Wikimedia Commons)
Fort Sackville Map Inset, Nova Scotia Archives and Records, (Wikimedia Commons)

As Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton’s army arrived on the lower Wabash, the river widened and deepened, enabling his much-fatigued army to spread out and make better progress to Vincennes and Fort Sackville.  All along the way, the governor’s efforts to grow his army through the addition of Indian allies had largely succeeded, not only increasing his numbers but improving his intelligence about the American forces awaiting him.  Those were paltry, indeed.

Continue reading “Hamilton Recaptures Fort Sackville: Norman MacLeod’s Campaign Journal, December 17, 1778”

Norman MacLeod’s Campaign Journal, October 13, 1778

Sketch of Wabash River, 1778
Sketch of the Wabash River Made During Hamilton’s 1778 Campaign (Wikimedia Commons)

In the summer of 1778, Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark of the Virginia militia launched one of the most daring American military operations of the Revolutionary War when he invaded the “Illinois country” and captured Cahokia and Kaskaskia in modern-day Illinois and Vincennes in southern Indiana, effectively neutralizing British power on the Illinois, Wabash, and Mississippi Rivers.  Henry Hamilton, Lieutenant Governor of Quebec and Britain’s Superintendent for Indian Affairs in Detroit, could not allow such audacity to succeed, lest Britain’s influence with the western Indian nations wane.  Learning of Fort Sackville’s fall at Vincennes on the Wabash River, he set out to recapture it.

Continue reading “Norman MacLeod’s Campaign Journal, October 13, 1778”

The Revolution’s Southwest Front

Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome back historian Robert “Bert” Dunkerly. 

During a trip to Mobile, Alabama for some Civil War research, I came across a fascinating and lesser-known aspect of the American Revolution.  When I travel, I always keep my eye out for unusual finds and hidden history.  I was rewarded on my trip to Mobile with a great discovery.

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Fort Conde (author collection)

One of the main historic sites in downtown Mobile is the reconstructed Fort Conde.  This brick fort interprets the early history of Mobile and the region under the flags of France, Spain, and the United States.  Just outside the fort is a marker discussing the battle of Fort Charlotte.

Mobile was originally the capital of the French Louisiana Territory until the close of the French and Indian War.  As part of the settlement of that conflict in 1763, this French territory passed to the British.  Fort Conde, built in 1723, was renamed Fort Charlotte by its new owners.

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Map of Ft. Conde superimposed over modern Mobile streets, (photo by author)

Most of us know that the French were anxiously watching the American Revolution when the conflict broke out, hoping to score revenge against their English adversaries. Also watching with interest were the Spanish.

The British garrisons along the Gulf of Mexico coast (Pensacola, Mobile, Baton Rouge) were quite small and vulnerable.  The Spanish had been providing material aid and funds to the Americans, but finally declared war on Britain in 1779.  The Spanish were ambivalent about American independence, and unlike the French, did not recognize the United States, but did agree to help militarily.

Even before Spain’s entry into the war, New Orleans was a source of aid smuggled in for the American effort.  The Crescent City, and all the land west of the Mississippi, had been awarded to Spain at the close of the French and Indian War.  From here, supplies moved up the Mississippi to Fort Pitt at Pittsburgh, PA.  And from New Orleans, Governor Bernardo de Galvez attacked British posts up the Mississippi and along the Gulf Coast.

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General Bernardo de Galvez, (artist unknown)

A statue of the Spanish general who did much to wrest the Mississippi and Gulf coast areas away from the British stands near the World Trade Center in New Orleans.  A gift from Spain to the city of New Orleans, the statue is a reminder of this important but neglected aspect of the war.  A group known as Granaderos y Damas de Galvez are dedicated to preserving his memory and that of the Spanish role in the Revolution.

Oliver Pollock was a Philadelphia merchant with close ties in Cuba and New Orleans.  When the war broke out, he used his connections to aid the Revolutionary cause from the Crescent City.  In 1777 he was appointed “commercial agent of the United States at New Orleans” and used his fortune to finance American operations in the west, such as General George Rogers Clark.  When Spain entered the war he served as an aide to General Bernardo de Galvez.

Moving up from New Orleans, a force under General de Galvez, that included Spanish troops, American volunteers, Acadian settles, and free blacks, attacked and captured the British outpost of Fort Richmond at Baton Rouge on September 21, 1779.  Today a memorial with plaques and a cannon marks the site.

In February, 1780, Spanish troops and American volunteers under Governor Bernardo de  Galvez laid siege to the 300 British in Fort Charlotte at Mobile.  The siege lasted a month.  The garrison’s surrender gave the Spanish control of this important site, and removed all English military forces from the Gulf region.

This was one of the few actions of the war in which Spanish and American troops fought side by side.  Spain declared war on Britain but did not recognized the United States, their primary interest being to settle scores with the British.

 

 

 

For more information on these fascinating events, check the following websites: 

http://www.museumofmobile.com/ft_conde.php

http://granaderos.org/