The largest, in terms of military forces deployed, engagement in the American Revolutionary War occurred on September 11, 1777 in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Battle of Brandywine was a pivotal moment in the British campaign that captured the patriot capital in Philadelphia. With the anniversary of the engagement happening the Friday before, the Emerging Revolutionary War crew will make this engagement and campaign the focal point of Sunday’s “Rev War Roundtable with ERW.”
Joining the “Rev War Revelry” this Sunday, at 7pm on Emerging Revolutionary War’s Facebook page will be Michael C. Harris, historian and author of Brandywine: A History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphiabut Saved America, September 11, 1777, which was published and is available for purchase by Savas Beatie. Click here to order.
Besides authoring the history mentioned above, Harris has an upcoming release, on another important battle in Pennsylvania, Germantown, fought on October 4, 1777. Rumor on the street has it that he will be joining ERW at a future date to discuss this important battle and talk about his new book.
A bit of a background on Harris. He is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and the American Military University. He has worked for the National Park Service in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Fort Mott State Park in New Jersey, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission at Brandywine Battlefield. He has conducted tours and staff rides of many east coast battlefields. Michael is certified in secondary education and currently teaches in the Philadelphia region. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Michelle and son, Nathanael.
Although the battle lost Philadelphia for the patriots, Harris does not hold back on the culprit for the setback:
“Washington failed the army, the army did not fail Washington.”
To hear the reasoning behind that emphatic quote we hope you join us this Sunday!
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).
“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 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
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.
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.
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”→
Is it too early to make plans for March? Never, right?
Well, if you are looking forward to spring and want to mix in some Revolutionary War history, look no further than the America’ History LLC Conference the weekend of March 24 through 26, 2017 in Historic Williamsburg, Virginia.
For those arriving early, you can take advantage of a Yorktown Battlefield Tour led by Bill Walsh on Friday afternoon. That evening the conference adds a new element in 2017 with a welcoming reception with the speakers. A panel discussion with all the speakers will focus on “Lies and Legends of the American Revolution.” In regards to the speakers for the event, America’s History LLC. have compiled an all-star lineup.
Spearheaded by Edward Lengel and David Preston. These two gentlemen will be joined by historians James Kirby Martin, Mark Lender, John Grenier, Michael Gabriel, Dennis Conrad, Robert Smith, and Robert Selig.
The conference wraps up on Sunday. For more information and how to register for the conference, click here.
The financial direction of the gunnery was put into the hands of Fielding Lewis. Born into a wealthy family at Warner Hall in Gloucester County, Virginia in 1725, Fielding was the third son of John and Frances Lewis. Following his father’s footsteps, Fielding was a prosperous industrialist, running a fleet of ships to England and English ports, exporting tobacco and grain. In addition, he operated a store and served on numerous committees and local government associations that laid the groundwork for governing what would eventually become the United States of America. Fielding was addressed as Colonel Lewis, more often than not, reflecting his participation as a provider of provisions and raising the local Spotsylvania militia during the French and Indian War. Feats he was to repeat and go beyond during the Revolutionary War.
Often using his vast personal wealth, Lewis purchased schooners and sloops, outfitting them with artillery to patrol the Rappahannock River in an effort to protect civilian lives and property, and to stop British troops from seizing colonial weaponry.
In February 1776, Lewis purchased the schooner, Liberty, outfitting it with armory. Later, renamed Hornet, it sailed under the command of Richard Taylor of Caroline County. It carried a crew of twenty-one men. Lewis, then purchased a sloop named Defiance and placed it under the command of Captain Eliezer Callender. In April, Lewis purchased the pilot boat, Adventure, appointing Captain William Saunders at the helm.
Lewis commissioned ships to be built as well. The row galley was the most popular vessel used for defense of the river and harbor at the time. Although equipped with sails, the primary source of power was the oar. Larger row galleys measuring seventy feet long could carry a crew of fifty men. These galleys often-times carried two large eighteen pound cannons. Lewis commissioned another ship named Dragon and launched it in 1777; it was used primarily to patrol the Chesapeake Bay.
Free and enslaved blacks were often members of the crew. Around one-hundred and forty black men served with the Virginia fleet; one to ten on each of the seventy vessels. About ten served on the Dragon. Some of these men may well have been slaves belonging to Lewis or Dick. Only ten percent of black men who served in the navy were free, most were escaped slaves posing as free men, like Crispus Attucks, the first casualty of the Revolutionary War. To fulfill enlistment quotas, slaves served as substitutes for their masters. Unlike white men who served for a specific time, blacks were in it for the long haul; for only then could their service earn them the promise of freedom.
The first ship to engage in warfare was the Hornet, capturing four enemy merchantmen in the Rappahannock. Their ship, Speedwell, was taken into custody by the Virginia Navy and sent to the West Indies to bring back gunpowder. Fielding imported guns and ammunition for use in the colonies by the Rappahannock and the Patsey.
Lewis’s commitment to freeing the colonies from British rule was unrelenting. A wealthy man, he sacrificed nearly everything he possessed to see his dream of American independence from Britain rule become a reality. He sat on one local government committee after another. He bought ships and turned them into naval ships. He managed the financial direction of the gunnery, as well as procuring military materials. Col. Lewis appointed ship captains and he raised regiments, adding manpower to the Continental Army. During this time, Lewis didn’t neglect the on-going responsibilities he administered before the war. He presided over legal cases as the Justice of the Peace, provided religious leadership, administrative duties and support for the poor as a vestry member of St. George’s Anglican Church, and ran his plantation and mercantile business.
The Fifth Convention met in May of 1776 and authorized the Virginia Committee to reimburse Lewis 1,059 pounds to pay privateers who imported provisions. He was also reimbursed an additional 1,800 pounds in July. However by the end of the war Lewis was virtually bankrupt. He was owed a considerable amount of money but he never recouped all of the money he invested. By 1780, Lewis’ health had deteriorated to the extent that he was no longer able to manage the gunnery and the full responsibility fell on the shoulders of Charles Dick, who had used his personal credit to finance various tasks related to the success of the gunnery. The Convention was delinquent in its payments to Lewis, Dick and the sixty employees at the gunnery. Dick closed the factory for a time due to his inability to meet payroll. He wrote to Governor Thomas Jefferson his frustrations about the lack of funds:
“I will do all in my Power to carry on the Work; but impossibiltys I cannot do … There must be proper stores laid in, Provisions, Walnut Plank for Gun-stocks, Iron, Steel are the principal articles, and these require even a good deal of Real money – And without which little or nothing can be done; I cannot speak plainer.”
The gunnery closed in 1783, the same year that the Treaty of Paris was signed establishing the independence of the United States of America. The manufacturing plant continued to operate, repairing muskets badly damaged after the war. Subsequently, once the gunnery ceased operations, the property and land was sold to trustees of the Fredericksburg Academy, whose president was James Mercer. The academy opened in 1786.
The last major battle of the Revolutionary War occurred at Yorktown. Major General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington in October of 1781. By December, Fielding Lewis, at the age of fifty-six, had succumbed to his battle with (consumption) tuberculosis. Charles Dick died a few years later in 1783. True patriots, Fielding Lewis and Charles Dick sacrificed their fortunes and health to free colonial America from British rule and were eye-witnesses to the birth of a new nation.
Today, at Historic Kenmore, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, stands the 18th-century plantation home built by Fielding Lewis and Betty Washington Lewis. The home, the pre-Revolutionary colonial kitchen and the Crownsinshield Gallery are open to the public for tours. Besides the antique collection of furniture and decorative arts, a musket produced by the Fredericksburg Gun Manufactory hangs in a display case in the gallery.
In the pages of American history, Col. Lewis and Charles Dick stand out as men whose faithful and persistent dedication to the cause of liberty lives on as an example of true patriotism.
“Fielding Lewis and Charles Dick may not have served on the battlefield during the Revolution, but they fought their own battles on the homefront, sacrificing all they had to keep the Gunnery running, naval ships operating and the militia supplied. Their sacrifices should remind us all to ask ourselves if we would be willing to do the same if ever called upon.” – Meghan Budinger, Aldrich Director of Curatorial Operations, The George Washington Foundation.
*Endnotes “Protecting the New Nation: The Fredericksburg Gun Manufactory
Photo Credit Information
Meghan Budinger, curator, sent me a list of questions that I had to answer in order to get permission to use the photographs from their collection.
State Marker: N-7,Fredericksburg Gun Manufactory
Courtesy of the George Washington Foundation (The Papers of George Washington Revolutionary War Series, Fielding’s letter to George Washington)
Courtesy of the George Washington Foundation (The Papers of George Washington Revolutionary War Series, Military Manual)
Courtesy of the George Washington Foundation (Musket: Fredericksburg Gunnery, Gift of Thomas Mellon II, 1936.)
Courtesy of the George Washington Foundation (Colonel Fielding Lewis, portrait by John Wollaston, Courtesy of the George Washington Foundation, circa 1755-1757.)
Courtesy of the George Washington Foundation Memorial stone from The Sons of the American Revolution
I handed over a couple of one dollar bills to pay for my coffee. The image of George Washington caught my eye, and I smiled. It would be nice to relax for a moment and pick-up Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick, the Revolutionary War history book I was reading. Settling into a comfortable chair, I soon immersed myself in the drama of the Battle of Princeton. Guided by the book’s text, my imagination created a vivid image of the unfolding conflict. George Washington – looking splendid on a large horse – galloped along, leading his men and shouting “It’s a fine fox-chase, my boys.”[i]
Startled, I closed the book. It seemed too difficult to accept that the “Father of His Country”, the dignified George Washington, and the reserved and diplomatic leader of the 1790’s could be riding recklessly, shouting in a full, commanding voice, and – on other occasions – struggling to keep his temper controlled when dealing with difficult subordinates. Then I felt foolish. My image of George Washington was based on the Gilbert Stuart presidential painting from 1797 that we’d studied in high-school art class!
Full disclosure: Mr. Brown is a fan of the reviewer’s blog and I received a copy of the DVD for review purposes.
Kent Masterson Brown is likely known to many readers as an author and historian of the War Between the States. But Mr. Brown’s knowledge, interest and expertise in the field of American history is much broader than just his study of the Civil War. This is evident in his recent film project, Daniel Boone and the Opening of the American West. I recently viewed the film for the purpose of this review.
The docudrama is an in-depth look at Boone’s life and his impact on the American frontier and the settlement of Kentucky. There is also detailed information regarding the geography and natural history of Kentucky which I found quite fascinating. The DVD comes packaged as a 2 disc, 112 minute DVD and was produced by Witnessing History, LLC – a company led by Brown. This is the first full-length film on the life of Daniel Boone ever produced for television broadcast. The film includes an original score by composer Clark D. Cranfill which provides a perfect backdrop for the narrative. Numerous Boone scholars consulted on the film. Included in the film are original Boone documents and works of art.
Let me begin by stating that I thought I knew a little bit about one of the American frontier’s best known icons until I viewed this documentary. Born in 1958, I had the privilege of being introduced to Daniel Boone by the popular 1960’s TV series, “Daniel Boone.” I watched the show so many times growing up (and still on occasion) that I can still sing the show’s theme song! Though the 1964-1970 television production took quite a bit of literary license the series was, nonetheless, responsible for instilling an interest in, and love of, American history in many a young boy during that time period. I rarely missed an episode growing up and have purchased the series for my own grandsons.
While watching this latest production, I couldn’t help but chuckle about some of the misconceptions many Americans have about Boone due, perhaps, to that old TV series. Brown explodes some of those misconceptions in this project: Boone was not the first white man to explore or settle Kentucky (then part of Virginia). He did not care for coonskin caps and never wore one. He was court-martialed, refused an attorney, defended himself, was acquitted and then promoted. He never used tobacco and though he did not totally abstain from alcohol, he was never known to abuse its use. He was red-headed and fair-skinned. He had a deep and abiding faith in God. His reading and writing skills were largely self-taught. And he was, as Brown notes, “one of America’s most authentic and remarkable men.”
This effort by Witnessing History is the first documentary film of its kind about the life of one of America’s best known historical figures. Brown describes some aspects of this project:
The filming of action scenes of Boone’s early explorations of Kentucky, his first attempt at settlement, the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, the opening of the Wilderness Road, the Revolutionary War in Kentucky and the Ohio Valley (including the sieges of Boonesborough, Ruddle’s Station and Bryan’s Station and the disastrous Battle of BlueLicks), and Boone’s later life as a surveyor, tavern keeper and even a legislator in Virginia were planned.
More than 100 actors and actresses were specially contacted to appear. The production was designed to be studded with magnificent scenes filmed in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky and Missouri, as Boone would have seen them, the traces, caves, springs, rivers, creeks, hills, and even dwellings and cemeteries.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1734 and (like so many of America’s early pioneers), of Scots-Irish stock, the film traces Boone’s life through America’s founding era, with the American Revolution as the backdrop, to his death in 1820 in Missouri. The film reveals that Boone was an intensely religious man and grew up in a Quaker family.
In addition to being instrumental in the settlement of Kentucky, Boone also helped establish Kentucky as the dominant horse-breeding state by presenting a bill in May of 1775 to “encourage the breeding of fine horse flesh.” To this day, horse-breeding and Kentucky are synonymous.
The film reminded me of the many hardships endured by the men, women and families that settled the American frontier—something so easy for modern Americans to forget. Particularly heart-wrenching is the film’s recounting of the death of Boone’s oldest son, James. Just 16, James and some companions were ambushed by a party of Shawnee Indians. Most of the party was killed, but James and one other member of the group were both paralyzed by the attack. They were then tortured for hours by the Shawnee. Their screams and cries could be heard for miles. Daniel Boone soon discovered the sad carnage and buried his son where he had been killed. Boone’s efforts to settle Kentucky had cost him his first-born son. It would not be his last sorrow as his brother would suffer a similar fate.
I found much of the scenery in the film breathtakingly beautiful, particularly the landscape of “the inner bluegrass” with its “sinks, sinkhole topography, sinking springs, sinking creeks and subterranean streams.” Much of that particular scenery, with its limestone formations, reminded me of my native Shenandoah Valley to which, interestingly enough, Boone also has a connection.
Brown’s knowledge of and love for his native Kentucky comes through in his narration of the film. This, in my mind, only makes the film more compelling and I found myself feeling as though I was actually standing in the landscape Brown so expertly and passionately describes.
Explorer, pioneer, folk hero, woodsman, frontiersman, militia officer during the Revolutionary War and surveyor; Daniel Boone was most assuredly, as Brown describes him, “one of America’s most authentic and remarkable men.”
The documentary was written, narrated and directed by Kent Masterson Brown. Full of historical nuggets and surprises, the film is as entertaining as it is educational. And though the documentary is 112 minutes, it moves along at a quick pace and it kept me interested the whole time I was watching. The closing few minutes of the film are quite poignant as Brown summarizes Boone’s life in few, but profound words. This is the way that history films should be done. In June of 2015, Daniel Boone and the Opening of the American West, won the coveted Telly Award.
If you are, as I am, a fan of Brown’s work or if you’re interested in learning something about Daniel Boone you didn’t know, I highly recommend this film and give it 5 out of 5 stars. It really is that good.
Note: If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can watch several of Witnessing History’s other projects for free, as part of your membership. Unfortunately, the Boone project is not one of them.
Richard G. Williams Jr., is a writer and the author of four books and numerous articles and essays related to the Civil War. His latest, The Battle of Waynesboro, (The History Press, 2014), was part of The History Press’s Sesquicentennial Series. He’s also written three essays for The Essential Civil War Curriculum which is an online Sesquicentennial project at the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech. Williams serves on the Board of Trustees for the National Civil War Chaplains Museum in Lynchburg, VA and blogs at oldvirginiablog.blogspot.com. He writes from the Shenandoah Valley.
This is part two in the series by guest historian Drew Gruber. For part one, click here.
On the morning of October 3, 1781, British Colonels Tarleton and Thomas Dundas led another expedition north towards Gloucester Courthouse and away from the protection of their fortifications at Gloucester Point. Their command that day included some of the most renowned fighting men then in service. Cavalry and mounted infantry from Tarleton’s own British Legion, combined with a detachment of Colonel Simcoe’s Queen’s Rangers, elements of the 17th Dragoons, men from the 23rd Regiment (Royal Welch Fusiliers), German Jaegers and part of the 80th Regiment of Foot provided an impressive host for their American and French adversaries. Captain Johann Ewald, commander of the Jaegers commented after the war that he was sent out with “one hundred horse of Simcoe’s and the remainder of the jagers and rangers, which amounted to only sixty man in order to take a position between Seawell’s planatation and Seawall’s Ordinary. I was to form a chain there to protect a foraging of Indian corn.”