This Sunday, May 10th, at 7 p.m. EST, Emerging Revolutionary War returns with the “Rev War Roundtable with ERW” for another installment of “Rev War Revelry.”
This week ERW welcomes guest historian Gabe Neville, historian and founder of the blog, 8th Virginia Regiment, and ERW historians Mark Maloy, Mark Wilcox, Billy Griffith, and Travis Shaw for a chat about militia (both Patriot and Loyalist) and Continental units. Click here to see Gabe’s blog.
Join the panel of historians as they debate, discuss, and share their favorite units, the differences between militia and Continental units, regiments or companies that deserve more recognition, or all of the above. Questions and comments are welcomed and encouraged.
Just head on over to Emerging Revolutionary War’s Facebook page Sunday evening, for our weekly happy hour historical discussion. We’ll be there sharing our insight, but not our favorite brews! See you Sunday!
On April 19, 1775, Massachusetts militia and minutemen responded to the call of British Regulars, “redcoats” marching from Boston to the town of Concord. What ensued was the “shot heard around the world” at the North Bridge in that town. What that shot signified was the changing course from words to war, that would define the relationship between 13 British North American colonies and Great Britain.
Now, 245 years later, Emerging Revolutionary War will turn that war back into words with its inaugural Rev War Revelry Zoom series. On Sunday, 7 p.m. EST, tune in to listen and watch historians from Emerging Revolutionary War discuss in an informal setting this momentous day in American history. Other topics are welcomed that pertain to the American Revolutionary War era as well.
As the title of the Zoom series relates, this will be similar to a tavern talk, much like the talks and information sharing rendezvous that went on in the 18th century, in places like Boston, where the road to revolution gained momentum as ales and spirits flowed. Thus, grab your favorite beverage, rest assured that ERW historians will be doing the same and join us, virtually, in our tavern Sunday evening.
Last year I came across Dr. John Knight’s account of the torture and execution of Colonel William Crawford by members of the Delaware Indian tribe in 1782. It was a vicious execution, but not unheard of in the wars on the American frontier, where violence and brutality from both sides were common.
Born in 1722, Crawford was a long-time business partner of George Washington, particularly in the acquisition of land in the Ohio River valley. A veteran of frontier conflicts, during the Revolution he had served as the Lieutenant Colonel of the 5th Virginia Regiment, commanded the 7th Virginia in the east, and then returned to the Pittsburgh area to raise the 13th Virginia. Sidelined during the war’s last years, he commanded local Pennsylvania militia and was largely retired by 1782. For years, settlers in the Ohio Valley had agitated for punitive raid against the Ohio Tribes along the Sandusky River in today’s northwestern Ohio. Their goal was to retaliate for Indian raids across the Ohio and spoil future raids. By the spring of 1782, they could not be restrained. After the militia massacred defenseless Christian Indians at Gnadenhutten in March, Brigadier General William Irvine, the Continental Commander at Pittsburgh, arranged for Colonel Crawford to lead the inevitable militia expedition, likely in hopes that Crawford could prevent a repeat. (Crawford had taken no part in the Gnadenhutten Massacre).
Few places in the American Revolution evoke sorrow like Gnadenhutten, Ohio. There, in March 1782, militia from Western Pennsylvania bludgeoned, scalped, and burned to death some ninety-six bound Indians who had adopted the Christian faith preached by missionaries from the church of the United Brethren. Thirty-four of the victims were children. Benjamin Franklin called the killings “abominable murders.”
Love brought Dr. Samuel Prescott, a practicing physician, to the town of Lexington on the night of April 18, 1775. The young doctor was courting Ms. Lydia Mulliken, when the alarm of the British soldiers marching from Boston went out to the local militia. Lydia’s brother was one of those called to gather.
Love. That emotion also drew Dr. Prescott back toward his hometown of Concord—this time to alert friends, neighbors, and family members of the urgent news of the evening. En route, Dr. Prescott along with Paul Revere and William Dawes, alerted the countryside of the moving British troops. After being vetted and vouchsafed as a true friend of liberty, Dr. Prescott rode posthaste to his hometown, where his word carried greater weight.
“the Country was an amazing strong one; full of Hills, Woods, stone Walls, & c., which the Rebels did not fail to take advantage of, for they were all lined with People who kept an incessant fire upon us…”
From the diary of Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie who was part of the 23rd Regiment–the Royal Welch Fusiliers that survived the ordeal of April 19, 1775. He would keep a diary until the early 1790’s and chronicled his experiences in the American Revolutionary War. His account on April 19, of the retreat from Concord is most descriptive. The British did not just take the brunt of the firing as the marched hurriedly back toward Boston and safety, but;
“as we did too upon them, but not with the same advantage, as they were so concealed there was hardly any seeing them: in this way we marched between 9 and 10 miles, their numbers increasing from all parts…”
The column was led by Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and had been tasked by General Thomas Gage, British military leader in North America, to root out the military supplies being stored in Concord by the colonials. The mission, albeit supposedly secretive, did not remain so for long, and the colonials got word out to the countryside. After initial firing at Lexington Green and then at the North Bridge in Concord, the British had to march back through the countryside, facing arriving militia and minute men.
“while ours was reducing by deaths, wounds, and fatigue; and we were totally surrounded with such an incessant fire as it is impossible to conceive; our ammunition was likewise near expended.”
Luckily, for Mackenzie and the other struggling British officers and rank-and-file, on a rise in the ground, outside the town of Menotomy, was a relief column, ready to provide a few moments’ respite.
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Eric Sterner.
In February 1778, Brigadier General Edward Hand, commanding Continental forces at Fort Pitt on the American frontier, launched what may be one of the oddest campaigns of the American Revolution, more famous for its fecklessness than any benefit to the American war effort. Born in Ireland, Hand arrived in the colonies with the 18th Royal Irish Regiment as a surgeon’s mate. He eventually left service in 1774 and set up a medical practice in Philadelphia. The siege of Boston found him among the besiegers as Lieutenant Colonel of a Pennsylvania Rifle Battalion. He fought under Washington on Long Island, at White Plains, and then Princeton, after which Washington successfully pursued the rank of Brigadier for him before sending him to Pittsburgh. Hand arrived in June, 1777, finding just two companies of the 13th Virginia. As was often the case on the frontier, Fort Pitt was under-garrisoned and Continental officers would have to scrounge constantly for troops, largely relying on local militia forces to defend the frontier.
Hand hoped to conduct a campaign to the west, driving toward British power at Detroit, but was unable to raise sufficient forces that fall. Instead, he settled for a trip down the Ohio to ensure local garrisons were in proper order. Around Christmas, Hand received information that the British had established a small magazine on the Cuyahoga River, likely somewhere close to where it empties into Lake Erie in the current city limits of Cleveland. As December gave way to January and February, Hand resolved to do something about it. At the beginning of the month, he wrote Colonel William Crawford, formerly of the 13th Virginia, currently of the Pennsylvania militia and a well-respected local leader, entreating the colonel to undertake an expedition: “As I am credibly informed that the English have lodged a quantity of arms, ammunition, provision, and clothing at a small indian Town, about one hundred miles from Fort Pitt to support the savages in their excursions against the inhabitants of this and the adjacent counties, I ardently wish to collect as many brave, active lads as are willing to turn out, to destroy this magazine. Every man must be provided with a horse, and every article necessary to equip them for the expedition, except ammunition, which, with some arms, I can furnish.”Continue reading “General Edward Hand: The Squaw Campaign”→
Reviewed by guest historian Robert “Bert” Dunkerly.
Lord Dunmore’s War remains one of the murkier events of the Colonial era. Historian Glenn F. Williams has produced a book that will set the standard for the study of this conflict.
Dunmore’s War, The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era by Williams, explains the complexity of the conflict and goes into detail analyzing the intertwined diplomatic and military events. The late 1760s and early 1770s were a fascinating and complex time on the frontier. Violence from the French and Indian War and Pontiac’s War had subsided, tribes were shifting alliances, settlers were moving into the region, and the colonies were still adjusting to the new realities following the Treaty of Paris. The British regulations that would trigger colonial resistance were already coming, and tensions were slowly building. Yet the issues which dominated the attention of most colonists were inter colonial rivalries, such as that between Virginia and Pennsylvania.
With British soldiers pouring into the fort, Colonel Ledyard ordered a ceasefire, and prepared to surrender Fort Griswold to the victorious British. However, the British disregarded the ceasefire and continuing pouring fire into the American garrison, killing or wounding nearly all of the fort’s defenders. “I believe there was not less than five or six hundred men of the enemy on the parade in the fort,” claimed American soldier Rufus Avery. “They killed and wounded nearly every man in the fort as quick as they could.”
Maj. Stephen Bromfield, the ranking British officer after Montgomery fell, called out, “Who commands this fort?” Ledyard stepped forward and responded, “I did, sir, but you do now.” Another American, Jonathan Rathbun, watched Bromfield run Ledyard through the heart and lungs with Ledyard’s own sword:
“…the wretch who murdered him [Ledyard], exclaimed, as he came near, “Who commands this fort?” Ledyard handsomely replied, “I did, but you do now,” at the same
moment handing him his sword, which the unfeeling villain buried in his breast! Oh, the
hellish spite and madness of a man that will murder a reasonable and noble-hearted officer, in the act of submitting and surrendering!”
After turning coat, Benedict Arnold received a commission as a brigadier general in the British army as part of the deal that he made in order to betray his country.
In August 1781, George Washington decided to shift forces in order to attack the army of Lt. Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis in Virginia. Washington began pulling troops from the New York area. Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander-in-chief in America, realized on September 2 that Washington’s tactics had deceived him, leaving him unable to mobilize quickly enough to help Cornwallis. Further, there was still a significant force of Continentals facing him in front of New York, and Clinton did not feel that he could detach troops to reinforce Cornwallis as a result.
Instead, Clinton decided to launch a raid into Connecticut in the hope of forcing Washington to respond. Clinton intended that this be a raid, but he also recognized that New London could be used as a permanent base of operations into the interior of New England. Clinton appointed Arnold to command the raid because he was from Connecticut and knew the terrain.
Arnold commanded about 1,700 British solders, divided into two battalions. Lt. Col. Edmund Eyre commanded a battalion consisting of the 40th and 54th Regiments of Foot and Cortland Skinner’s New Jersey Volunteers, a Loyalist unit. Arnold himself commanded the other battalion, made up of the 38th Regiment of Foot and various Loyalist units, including the Loyal American Regiment and Arnold’s American Legion. Arnold also had about 100 Hessian Jägers, and three six-pound guns. This was a formidable force anchored by the three Regular regiments. Continue reading “The Battle of Groton Heights, September 6, 1781: The Fort Griswold Massacre”→