Mercer’s Grenadier Militia



Emerging Revolutionary War and Revolutionary War Wednesday is pleased to welcome back guest historian Drew Gruber.

Part 1

When we think about American militia during the Revolutionary War, the image of an untrained rifle-toting citizen turned soldier comes to mind. This stereotype of the American soldier, popularized by movies like The Patriot is not completely false but such generalizations should give us pause and inspire us to investigate the roll of American militia, independent companies, and ‘irregular’ troops a bit closer. For example, how was it that on October 3, 1781 a group of Virginia militiamen defeated an elite British force? The story of Lieutenant Colonel John Mercer’s Grenadier Militia during the battle at Seawell’s Ordinary has been told and retold since 1781, however the formation of this illustrious group is often ignored and deserves a closer look. Continue reading “Mercer’s Grenadier Militia”

ERW Weekender – Yorktown



Rev War Wednesday and Emerging Revolutionary War is pleased to welcome guest historian Kate Gruber. 

Let me guess– you are a Rev War Nerd who is the best friend of/dating/married to a Civil War Nut.

I recognize the symptoms. You have often thought that the third person in your relationship might just be Shelby Foote.  Hardtack is just not something you can get voluntarily excited about. The idea of blue and grey is not nearly as appealing as red and blue. You have been dragged to Gettysburg when you really wanted to check out Valley Forge.

Friends, you are not alone. I myself am a Nerd married to a Nut, and I am here to tell you that your problems might just be solved by spending some quality time in historic Yorktown, Virginia. Continue reading “ERW Weekender – Yorktown”

James Monroe at War



Part Two

With an excess of officers in the Continental Army and little prospect of getting a field command, James Monroe resigned his commission in 1779.  He became a Lieutenant-Colonel of Virginia forces, but was unable to recruit enough men to form a new regiment.  In 1780 he went to North Carolina as a military observer for Governor Thomas Jefferson, with whom he had begun the study of law. Continue reading “James Monroe at War”

Jefferson: America’s Great Contradiction


monticellobenchThe first in a four-part series

I sit on a small wooden bench, little more than a plank with legs, really, beneath a tulip poplar whose wide branches umbrella me. The grass around the bench has been worn away by weary travelers come to the bench to rest, revealing the reddish iron-rich soil of Virginia beneath.

A few yards away from me, Thomas Jefferson rests in peace.

A slow stream of visitors comes down the brick walkway from Jefferson’s house to stand outside the black, wrought-iron fence that surrounds his family’s small graveyard, still in use today by descendents. Many visitors have thrown coins onto the president’s grave—not just the Jefferson-faced nickels you’d expect, either, but pennies, dimes, and quarters, too. Considering the rift between Washington and Jefferson in Washington’s last years, I wonder what Jefferson would think about that. Continue reading “Jefferson: America’s Great Contradiction”

Shots Heard Round the World


A quote from poet Ralph Waldo Emerson at the North Bridge in Concord.
A quote from poet Ralph Waldo Emerson at the North Bridge in Concord: “The thunderbolt falls on an inch of ground; but the light of it fills the horizon.”

This past weekend marked the 240th anniversary of “the Shot Heard ‘Round the World”—the opening engagement, in Concord, Massachusetts, of what became the American Revolution. There at the North Bridge, on April 19, 1775, colonial militiamen fired on British soldiers who’d marched from Boston to seize an arsenal of weapons cached in the town. Earlier in the day, the British soldiers had gunned down colonial militamen in the nearby town of Lexington—but this time, when they opened fire on the colonists (killing two of them), the colonists fired back. Two British soldiers died, and a third was mortally wounded.

Writer Ralph Waldo Emerson called it “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”

The last time I visited Concord’s North Bridge was August 6, 2010. As it happened, the date marked the anniversary of another shot heard ’round the world…one certainly as impactful and probably more infamous:
 Continue reading “Shots Heard Round the World”

“Remember the Ladies”



March is Women’s History Month, a time to reflect on the many contributions women have contributed in our country. At George Washington Birthplace National Monument, our social media policy for the month has been to highlight important women to the history of the National Park Service and/or to George Washington’s life.

By writing the history text and developing what images to use for these posts, I thought I would take this example and expand it to include two other women that played integral parts in the American Revolutionary movement.

Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren. Continue reading ““Remember the Ladies””