Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Karl G. Elsea
When visiting Revolutionary War battlefields there are often replica field guns (sometimes with original barrels) on the grounds. What is often not shown is the equipment needed for the gun to get to the field. That movement required horse(s) and harness and a limber. An earlier article provided information on Patriot limbers. This article concerns the horse harness.
There are inventories and paintings that show British harness used during the war. Muller’s A Treatise of Artillery shows the horse harness hook-ups on British limbers for medium and heavy artillery, and it is somewhat unique. The British hook-up appears more restrictive as to horse size. The cart-saddle used by the British was ubiquitous. It seems reasonable that the Patriots would have used the same harness with the exception of the specialized hook-up hardware on the limber. The following part of a Philipp Loutherbourg painting of Warley Camp detailing a review in 1778 clearly shows the cart-saddle with chain on the thill horse and the rest of the British harness.
Emerging Revolutionary War is pleased to share the following information from our friends at Campaign 1776 managed by the Civil War Trust.
“As many of you may know, this winter marks the 241st anniversary of the American victories at the battles of Trenton and Princeton. The Continental Army’s triumphs in the Ten Crucial Days campaign proved instrumental to rekindling Patriot morale and keeping the cause for American independence alive in the wake of early defeats.Continue reading “From Campaign 1776: Ten Crucial Days”→
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Bill Backus to the blog.
Fighting for Independence, Patriots commonly argued they were combating an attempt by the English Crown to reduce the American colonies to slavery. The irony that most leaders crowing against “English slavery” owned enslaved African-Americans is one of the greatest contradictions of American history. In a struggle about slavery, enslaved people played an important role. In her new book, Standing in Their Own Light: African-American Patriots in the American Revolution, Professor Judith L. Van Buskirk explores African-American participation in the Patriot cause.
The foundation for Van Buskirk’s study is the pension claims for nearly 500 soldiers made decades after the war. To obtain a pension, veterans had to prove in a county court that they had served in the military during the war. In addition to their recollection of when they enlisted, with whom they fought with, and where they campaigned, aspiring pensioners routinely recruited serving comrades and officers to offer testimony on their behalf. While the pension records are an important source for historians, these documents were intended to prove wartime service and thus offered only a cursory examination of their military career. The limitations of using these sources become apparent throughout the study
The book is divided into six chapters. Van Buskirk first examines slavery prior to the American Revolution with South Carolina standing in for the Deep South, Virginia for the Upper South, Pennsylvania for the Middle Atlantic, and Massachusetts for New England. In the second chapter, Van Buskirk utilizes the pensions to explore the life of an African-American patriot soldier, from enlistment, to camp life, and battle. The subsequent two chapters explore two case studies of attempts to recruit, African-American soldiers: the segregated 1st Rhode Island Infantry and the story of the Laurens family connection of the recruit of African-Americans in South Carolina. The final two chapters explore the pensions after the war.
The study on the 1st Rhode Island is outstanding. On May 14,1781, a detachment of the regiment on picket duty was ambushed outside of Peekskill, New York, by a local loyalist unit. In the space of a few minutes, the Continentals lost eight killed, including both its colonel and major killed or mortally wounded, four wounded and twenty-four captured. The majority of the killed were black while those captured tended to be white. Stories of the field officers either bayonetted or shot while in their beds added a salacious detail to this American disaster. While its unknown if race played a crucial factor, the Battle of Pines Bridge foreshadowed the bloody battles involving African-American soldiers 80 years later in the Civil War.
While inconclusive, enough evidence survives in various pension claims that some of the first soldiers who entered the British fortifications at the Battle of Stoney Point weren’t officers, but black enlisted men. Finally how subsequent generations of Americans used black soldiers involved in the Revolutionary War is another important contribution to the literature.
The limitation of the source material becomes evident in several places throughout the study. For example in exploring the Battle of Stoney Point, Van Buskirk prefaces many observations with “probably” and “likely”. At other sections, Van Buskirk generalizes the service of the men, an example being Jacob Francis and his military career. Van Buskirk fleshes out Francis’ pension claim with an overly generalized overview of a battle experience in a Revolutionary Era army. Sources for 18th century battles can be somewhat sparse compared with other events, but the qualifying terms that Van Buskirk uses diminishes some of the conclusions that she reaches
These quibbles aside, Standing in Their Own Light: African-American Patriots in the American Revolution is a tremendous addition to the historiography of the American Revolution, such as the sections about the 1st Rhode Island and black patriots after the war. Anyone interested in African-American history or the Continental Army should pick up this book.
A native of Connecticut, Bill Backus graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a bachelor’s degree in Historic Preservation. Currently working as a historian for multiple Civil War sites in Northern Virginia, Bill has worked for the National Park Service at Vicksburg National Military Park and Petersburg National Battlefield. Bill currently resides in historic Brentsville, Virginia, with his wife, Paige, and their dog, Barley.
Andersonville. Bataan. Auschwitz. All conjure up images of disillusion, devastation, and death.
All are infamously known as harsh prisoner-of-war camps. When those words are read, images flash through your mind and memory of hollow faces attached to gaunt bodies staring blankly in the direction of the cameraman.
With Robert P. Watson’s new history, The Ghost Ship of Brookly, An Untold Story of the American Revolution, one can add another word to the lexicon of prison camp vernacular.
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Katie Turner Getty.
Towering over Charlestown, Massachusetts, its foundation set in sacred battleground soil, the Bunker Hill Monument is a 221 foot obelisk commemorating the Battle of Bunker Hill. The cornerstone of the monument was laid by the Marquis De Lafayette in 1825, fifty years after the battle was fought on June 17, 1775.
Although the land surrounding the monument has been greatly developed since the battle, visitors today can get still get a sense of the 18th-century landscape just by walking through Charlestown and climbing the hill to reach Monument Square. Approaching visitors are greeted by the statue of Colonel William Prescott, the gray granite of the monument serving as an impressive backdrop behind him. Continue reading “ERW Weekender: Bunker Hill Monument & Museum”→
On October 7, 1780, one of the most pivotal battles of the American Revolution fought in the South occurred on a hillside in northwest South Carolina.The engagement brought militia from both sides; those loyal to the British and those adhering to the independence movement against each other. In fact, only one regular British soldier was present on that autumn day; the British commander Major Patrick Ferguson.
How did Ferguson and his militia end up on King’s Mountain? This was due to the campaign being waged by British General Lord Cornwallis in the Southern colonies.
Ferguson’s role was to protect the flank of Cornwallis’ force as it turned north from South Carolina. After issuing a call of bravado, where Ferguson gave Patriot militia an ultimatum; lay down your weapons or suffer the consequences, the British officer began to move through the South Carolina countryside. This decree emboldened the Patriot militia, some of which would come from across the Appalachian Mountains–or “Overmountain”–to join in the fight against Ferguson. This combined force would gather around Sycamore Shoals in present day Tennessee.
Word quickly reached Ferguson near Gilbert Town, North Carolina by way of deserters that a large force of Virginia, Carolinas, and militia from the area of Tennessee had arrived and were planning to march toward his encampment.
Still showing a high degree of disdain for the Patriot militia, Ferguson did not act immediately on the intelligence. Three days later, the Loyalist militia and the British officer started their retrograde movement toward Charlotte and Lord Cornwallis’s main army.
By October 4, 1780 now joined by a sprinkling of Georgia militia, the Patriots had reached Ferguson’s old encampment site. Two days later the militia forced marched through the Cowpens of South Carolina, which had not witnessed the hard hand of battle yet. Just a day’s march ahead was Ferguson’s forces.
At this juncture, Ferguson made a fateful decision. Instead of continuing his retreat and he was less than a full-days march away from the main British army, the British officer held up his forces on a forested hill just inside South Carolina and laid out his camp on the highest point; Kings Pinnacle.
Realizing that time was of the essence, the Patriot force, now numbering 900 men, found plentiful horseflesh to mount up and close the gap between the two sides. Riding through the rain and darkness of the night of October 6, the fifteen-mile gap between forces was erased and by late morning the Patriot militia was reining up within striking distance of Kings Mountain.
By mid-afternoon, at approximately 3:00 p.m. the fighting erupted. The Patriot militia broke into smaller commands, numbering between 100-200 men and started to ascend the slopes. Luckily for the Patriots, Ferguson had not detected just how close the enemy was and had also neglected to fortify his encampment. His force though, outnumbered the Patriots by approximately 200 men.
Some of the Loyalist militia did not realize that the enemy had arrived until the Patriot militia came hollering and yelling up the slope of the hillside. With the conglomerate of various militia, there was no unified command of the Patriot forces and the fight quickly boiled down to independent maneuvering and fighting. Using the terrain, the Patriot militia fired from behind trees and boulders. Answering this tactic, Ferguson ordered a bayonet charge down the hill. This caused the Patriot force to retreat to the base of the hill as most of the men were carrying rifles which did not accommodate the bayonet.
Virginia militia Colonel William Campbell and North Carolinian militia Colonel John Sevier helped rally the militia that had broken and sent the force back up the hillside. This back and forth would happen a few more times; Ferguson’s force charging down hill with bayonets, the militia backtracking, than reforming, and charging back up after the Loyalist momentum had waned.
Finally, after an hour of combat the Patriot militia forced their way to the crown of the hill and was able to flank the Loyalist force and attack in rear of their position. This maneuver forced the Loyalists back into their encampment where numbers of them began to surrender.
Ferguson sensing the tide turning against the Loyalists, tried to rally his troops, supposedly yelling, “Hurrah,brave boys, the day is ours!” Gathering a few stalwarts, Ferguson made a desperate move to fight his way out of the encircling Patriot militia. A volley from Colonel Sevier’s militia force unhorsed Ferguson who fell entangled in his stirrups. Unfortunately, the horse, spooked with the musketry and smell of gunpowder dragged Ferguson through the Patriot line. After getting untangled from the straps on the horse, Ferguson lay prone on the ground, where a Patriot officer demanded his surrender. Still with some fight in him, Ferguson shot and killed the man. Other Patriot militia responding to the scene fired a collective volley at the downed British officer, killing Ferguson.
Some of the Patriot militia were opposed to accepting the Loyalist surrender, as they remembered the massacres and atrocities committed to their brethren in arms by the infamous Banastre Tarleton. Cooler heads prevailed and the firing died down.
By the time the second white flag was sent out by Captain Abraham DePeyster, Patriot militia officers were finally able to reign in their commands and over 600 Loyalist soldiers surrendered.
Within the one-hour and five minute engagement, Ferguson’s force ceased to exist. Total casualties for the Loyalist force was 290 killed, 163 wounded, and 668 captured. The Patriots suffered a total of 87 casualties; 29 killed and 58 wounded.
The Patriots, with the close proximity of Cornwallis’s forces, who the day after the battle would finally get the request for reinforcements from his slain subordinate, quickly retreated back into the safety of the South Carolina countryside.
However, the Battle of Kings Mountain would become a critical turning point, not only in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution, but in the entire war itself. The victory, which demolished the Loyalist militia force covering his flank, forced Cornwallis to altere his strategy for the campaign. He would be forced to return to South Carolina, giving up advancing further than Charlotte into North Carolina in order to re-solidify control of territory in his rear. When Cornwallis finally returned to the Tar Heel State the following year, he would suffer eventually suffer a Pyrrhic victory at Guilford Court House in March 1781.
All that was in the future and so is your visit to this battlefield of the American Revolution.
On March 3, 1931, Kings Mountain National Military Park was formed by an act of Congress and placed under the control of the United States War Department. Two years later, in March 1933, the property was transferred to the National Park Service by an executive order. At this juncture, the entire land mass of the park was comprised of 40 acres that had been originally donated by the Kings Mountain Battlefield Association. The park has grown since that time and now preserves slightly under 4,000 acres.
For further details on how to visit the battlefield, which includes trails, a visitor center, exhibits, and a bookstore, click here. The park is open daily 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with extended hours on the weekend between Memorial and Labor Days. Even better there is no fee to access this national military park!
*All the photos taken for this post was done by the author during a visit to the battlefield in autumn.*
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.
Revolutionary War Wednesday and Emerging Revolutionary War is pleased to welcome guest historian Mark Maloy this week.
African-Americans fought for the Americans during the Revolutionary War, right? Many of us remember learning about Crispus Attucks dying during the Boston Massacre or have heard the oft-repeated saying that the Continental Army was the last integrated American army until the Korean War.