ERW Weekender: Cornwallis House

Cornwallis House, Winnsboro, South Carolina

In the quaint South Carolina town of Winnsboro, a few miles off of current Interstate-77 sites a two-story stands one of the oldest dwellings in a town founded by Richard Winn of Virginia a few years before the start of the American Revolution.

Yet, it was during those hostilities that one of the more famous military leaders came to “Winnsborough” as it was sometimes listed on maps of the time. His name, Lord Charles Cornwallis, the overall commander of British forces in the Southern Colonies. He would use the house during the winter of 1780-1781.

The house itself is an enigma. The structure dates to pre-1776 obviously, but the builder and owner of the house is still not known. Yet, it is well document that the house did serve during the labeled “winter of discontent” for the British and Cornwallis.

Across the street resides the Mount Zion Institute which became quarters for British soldiers during that winter of 1780-1781.

After the conflict the property and house was deeded to Captain John Buchanan, a veteran of the American Revolution. Buchanan was part of the welcoming party for the Marquis de Lafayette when the Frenchman landed at Georgetown, South Carolina.

Although not open to the public, special requests will be entertained. Click here for the link below for more information on the house and also who to contact for those special arrangements.

The Battle of Kings Mountain, From Those Who Were There

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back historian Bert Dunkerly. The accounts below come from Mr. Dunkerly’s book on the battle.

“The Battle of Kings Mountain, Eyewitness Accounts” by Bert Dunkerly  (Acadia Publishing)

The battle of Kings Mountain was an intense, one-hour battle fought just below the North Carolina-South Carolina border.  The October 1780 engagement pitted about 900 American militia from five states (Virginia, the two Carolinas, Georgia, and modern-day Tennessee) against 1,100 Loyalists under Maj. Patrick Ferguson.  With Ferguson’s wounding late in the action, command fell to his subordinate, Captain Abraham DePeyster.  As the Americans closed in, the Loyalists surrendered.

Eyewitness accounts provide details of the battle, especially its lesser known aspects like the conclusion of the battle and subsequent Loyalist surrender.  Here are a few detailed accounts, presented with original spelling and grammar.

Virginia militiaman Leonard Hice had quite an experience in the battle, being wounded four times.  He would spend two years recovering:

“I was commanded by Captain James Dysart where I was dreadfully wounded, I received two bullets in my left arm and it was broken.  We were fighting in the woods and with the assistance of my commander who would push my bullets down, I shot 3 rounds before I was shot down.  I then received a bullet through my left leg.  The fourth bullet I received in my right knee which shattered the bone by my right thigh and brought me to the ground.  When on the ground I received a bullet in my breast and was bourne off the ground to a doctor.”

Andrew Cresswell was a militiaman from Virginia who found himself too far in front during the final phase of the battle.  He also was fortunate to witness the surrender and provided one of the only accounts of Captain Abraham DePeyster surrendering to Colonel William Campbell.  His account also speaks to the brutal nature of the fighting between Loyalist and Whig.

“I saw the smoke of their guns and as I saw but one man further round than myself I  spoke to him and told him we had better take care least we might make a mistake.  I retreated about ten paces where I discharged my gun. About that moment they began to run.  I waited for nobody.  I ran without a halt till I came to the center of their encampment at which moment the flag was raised for quarters.  I saw Capt. DePeyster start from amongst his dirty crew on my right seeing him coming a direct course towards me.  I looked round to my left I saw Col. Campbell of Virginia on my left DePeyster came forward with his swoard hilt foremost.  Campbell accosted him in these words “I am happy to see you Sir.  DePeyster, in answer swore by his maker he was not happy to see him under the present circumstances at the same time delivered up his sword – Campbell received the sword, turned it round in his hand and handed it back telling him to return to his post which he received.  Rejoining these words, God eternally damn the Tories to Hell’s Flames and so the scene ended as to the surrender.”

Lt Anthony Alliare was a New York Loyalist in Ferguson’s command.  He recounts the experience of the New York detachment, which launched a series of unsuccessful bayonet charges early in the battle.  His reference to the “North Carolina regiment” refers to local Loyalist troops fighting alongside his men.

“The action continued an hour and five minutes, but their numbers enabled them to surround us.  The North Carolina regiment seeing this, and numbers being out of ammunition, gave way, which naturally threw the rest of the militia into confusion.  Our poor little detachment, which consisted of only seventy men when we marched to the field of action, were all killed and wounded by twenty, and those brave fellows were soon crowded as close as possible by the militia.’

Ensign Robert Campbell of Virginia also witnessed the close of the battle, and recounts a white flag being raised.

“It was about this time that Colonel Campbell advanced in front of his men, and climbed over a steep rock close by the enemy’s lines to get a view of their situation and saw they were retreating from behind the rocks that were near to him.  As soon as Captain Dupoister observed that Colonel Ferguson was killed, he raised flag and called for quarters.  It was soon taken out of his hand by one of the officers on horseback, and raised so high that it could be seen by our line, and the firing immediately ceased.  The Loyalists, at the time of their surrender, were driven into a crowd, and being closely surrounded, they could not have made any further resistance.”

Isaac Shelby, from the Carolina frontier (modern Tennessee) was a militia commander in the battle.  He also provides insights in the battle’s final moments.

“They were ordered to throw down their arms; which they did, and surrendered themselves prisoners at discretion.  It was some time before a complete cessation of the firing, on our part, could be effected. Our men, who had been scattered in the battle, were continually coming up, and continued to fire, without comprehending in the heat of the moment, what had happened; and some, who had heard that at Buford’s defeat the British had refused quarters to many who asked it, were willing to follow that bad example.  Owing to these causes, the ignorance of some, and the disposition of other to retaliate, it required some time, and some exertion on the art of the offices, to put an entire stop to the firing.  After the surrender of the enemy, our men gave spontaneously three loud and long shouts.”

In one hour, the entire Loyalist force of 1,100 was killed, wounded, or captured.  October 7 marks the anniversary of this battle which, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, was the “turn of the tide of success.”

Plaque at Kings Mountain National Military Park


Robert M. Dunkerly (Bert) is a historian, award-winning author, and speaker who is actively involved in historic preservation and research. He holds a degree in History from St. Vincent College and a Masters in Historic Preservation from Middle Tennessee State University. He has worked at nine historic sites, written eleven books and over twenty articles. His research includes archaeology, colonial life, military history, and historic commemoration. Dunkerly is currently a Park Ranger at Richmond National Battlefield Park. He has visited over 400 battlefields and over 700 historic sites worldwide. When not reading or writing, he enjoys hiking, camping, and photography.

Campaign 1776 Updates

Our friends at Campaign 1776, an initiative of the Civil War Trust,  have passed along a few important updates from their very busy September.

campaign-1776-logo-220First, another installment of their very popular “In4” video series sheds light on the Battle of Brandywine, fought in southeastern Pennsylvania on September 11, 1777. The video is narrated by Thomas McGuire, historian and author. Check out the video here.

Switching gears to the Southern Theater, Campaign 1776 has kicked off an initiative to save 1,037 acres at six sites in South Carolina. Those sites include land on Port Royal Island, Fort Fair Lawn, Colleton Castle, Lewisfield Plantation, Hanging Rock, and Waxhaws.

This appeal is the “first of its kind”, according to Civil War Trust Communication Manager Meg Martin, “to save land at these sites.” Furthermore, some of these sites were pivotal to the eventual outcome of the American Revolution, as some historians believe that the war was essentially won in the Southern Theater.

Learn more about the Campaign’s involvement here. But, feel free to leave your opinion on whether you agree that the American Revolution was won in the South or not in the comments below.


*Thank you to Meg Martin for her contributions to this post.*

Defense in Depth as a Revolutionary War Battlefield Tactic

Part Three (click here for first two installments)

Determined to avenge his embarrassing defeat at Cowpens, Lt. Gen. Charles Lord Cornwallis set his army out in a determined pursuit of the American army. Knowing that he was too weak to face Cornwallis in a pitched battle, Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene, the Southern Department commander, retreated northeastward from Salisbury, North Carolina toward the Virginia state line, where he hoped that additional militia troops would reinforce his army and he would receive supplies. The British chased Greene to the Dan River, near the Virginia border, but Greene wisely put the river between his army and the enemy. Cornwallis and his weary soldiers arrived at the rain-swollen river on February 15, too late to catch Greene’s army, which had finished crossing earlier that day. Frustrated, Cornwallis withdrew to Hillsborough, North Carolina.

Lord Charles Cornwallis

After receiving both the expected supplies and reinforcements, and after an opportunity to rest his command, Greene soon marched back into North Carolina to face Cornwallis’ tired and poorly supplied army, which now numbered less than 2000 men. After several weeks of skirmishing with Loyalist militiamen and a great deal of maneuvering Greene assumed a defensive position around Guildford Courthouse (near modern Greensboro, North Carolina) on March 14, 1781. Greene had more than 4000 Continentals, militiamen and cavalry, meaning that his army outnumbered Cornwallis’ by more than twice their strength. Continue reading “Defense in Depth as a Revolutionary War Battlefield Tactic”

Part 2: The Defense in Depth as a Revolutionary War Battlefield Tactic

For part one, click here

Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan, the “Old Wagoner,” as he was known, commanded a light infantry corps assigned to Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene’s southern army. Morgan met with Greene in Charlotte, North Carolina on December 3, 1780.  Implementing a Fabian strategy, Greene split his army to harass the British while buying time to recruit additional soldiers. Greene ordered Morgan to use his 600-man command to forage and harass the enemy in the back country of South Carolina while avoiding battle with Lt. Gen. Charles Lord Cornwallis’ British army.

Once Cornwallis realized what was going on he dispatched Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s British Legion to track down Morgan’s command and bring it to battle. Tarleton commanded a combined force of Loyalist American troops. The Legion consisted of fast-marching light infantry and dragoon units. At its peak strength, the Legion numbered approximately 200 infantry and 250 dragoons. It was known for its rapid movements and for its ruthless policy of giving the enemy no quarter. Patriot forces feared Tarleton and his Legion, and for good reason.

By January 12, Tarleton’s scouts had located Morgan’s army in the South Carolina back country, and Tarleton began an aggressive pursuit. Morgan hastily retreated to a position at the Cowpens, a prominent crossroads and pasturing grounds for cattle. The field was about 500 yards long and about as wide, dotted with trees, but devoid of undergrowth, which served as a food source for grazing battle.

Once Morgan learned that Tarleton was pursuing him, he spread the word for local militia units to rendezvous with him at the Cowpens. Through the night, South Carolina militiamen drifted into camp. Morgan visited their camps, encouraging them to stand and fight. Morgan’s words were particularly effective; the grizzled veteran knew how to motivate these men. They would need to be prepared, because they faced a stern task the next day.

January 17, 1781 dawned clear and very cold. After his scouts reported Tarleton’s approach, Morgan rode among his men, crying out, “Boys, get up! Benny’s coming!” Morgan designed a defense in depth that was intended to draw the British Legion in and then defeat them by pouncing on their exposed flanks. He knew that his militia had a reputation of being unreliable, and his ability to maneuver was limited, so he elected to design and implement a defense in depth that took advantage of the terrain features of the Cowpens.

Banastre Tartleton, British commander at Cowpens
Banastre Tartleton, British commander at Cowpens

Tarleton was overconfident. He believed that Morgan’s command was hemmed in by the nearby Broad River and also believed that the cleared fields of the Cowpens were ideal ground for his dragoons, and concluded that Morgan must be desperate to fight in such a place.

Morgan had prepared three defensive positions. Selected sharpshooters out front and hiding behind trees manned the first line. They picked off a number of Tarleton’s dragoons as they advance, specifically targeting officers. Traditional accounts indicate that they downed 15 of Tarleton’s dragoons this way. Confused, the dragoons retreated.

Having accomplished their initial goal, the sharpshooters then fell back about 150 yards or so to join the second line, which consisted of Brig. Gen. Andrew Pickens’ militiamen. Morgan asked these men to stand long enough to fire two volleys, after which they were to fall back to the third—and main line—manned by Col. John Eager Howard’s Continentals, another 150 yards or so in the rear of the second line. Thus, Morgan had designed a textbook example of a defense in depth.

Andrew Pickens, commanded some of the South Carolina militia at Cowpens
Andrew Pickens, commanded some of the South Carolina militia at Cowpens

Some of the militia got off two volleys and then most of the militia fell back to a spot behind the third line. Tarleton orders his dragoons to pursue the retreating militiamen, and as the dragoons bore down on them with their sabres drawn, Col. William Washington’s Continental cavalry suddenly thundered onto the field, seemingly from nowhere. They routed the surprised Loyalist dragoons, who fled the field with heavy losses.

The infantry then engaged. With their drums beating and their fifes shrilling, the British infantry advanced at a trot. Recognizing that the moment of crisis had arrived, Morgan cheered his men on, rode to the front and rallied the militia, crying out, “form, form, my brave fellows! Old Morgan was never beaten!”

William Washington, commander of American cavalry at Cowpens and a distant relation to George Washington
William Washington, commander of American cavalry at Cowpens and a distant relation to George Washington

Tarleton’s 71st Highlanders, a veteran unit made of Scotsmen, which had been held in reserved, now charged the Continental line, their skirling bagpipes adding to the cacophony of battle. Howard ordered his right flank to face slight right to counter a charge from that direction, but in the noise and chaos, was misunderstood as a call to retreat. As other companies along the line began to pull out, Morgan rode up to ask Howard if he had been beaten. Howard pointed at the orderly ranks of his retreat and assured Morgan that they had not been beaten. Morgan then put spurs to his horse and ordered the retreating units to face about and, on his order, to fire in unison. Their deadly volley dropped numerous British soldiers, who, sensing victory, had broken ranks in a determined charge. The combination of this volley and a determined bayonet charge by the Continentals turned the tide of battle in favor of the Americans.

At the moment, the rallied and re-formed militia and Washington’s cavalry attacked, leading to a double envelopment of the British, who began surrendering in masses. Tarleton and some his men fought on, but others refused to obey orders and fled the field in a panic. Finally, Tarleton realized that he had been badly beaten and fled down the Green River Toad with a handful of his men. Racing ahead of his cavalry, William Washington dashed forward and engaged Tarleton and two of his officers in hand-to-hand combat. Only a well-timed pistol shot by his young bugler saved Washington from the upraised saber of one of the British officers. Tarleton and his remaining forces escaped and galloped off to Cornwallis’ camp to report the bad news.

And bad news it was: Tarleton’s Legion lost 110 dead, over 200 wounded and 500 captured. By contrast, Morgan lost only 12 killed and 60 wounded. His perfectly designed and perfectly implemented defense had worked even beyond the Old Wagoner’s wildest dreams and highest hopes.

Knowing that Cornwallis would pursue him, Morgan buried the dead and then withdrew to the north to live and fight another day. Morgan reunited with Greene’s army and the combined force headed for North Carolina. Morgan, whose health was fragile, soon retired from further duty in the field, but he had left his mark. Cowpens was his finest moment, and set a precedent for Greene to follow two months later at Guilford Courthouse.

Battle of Cowpens (Courtesy of Campaign 1776/CWT)
Battle of Cowpens
(Courtesy of Campaign 1776/CWT)

*Suggestions for additional reading: for a superb book-length microtactical treatment of the Battle of Cowpens, see Lawrence E. Babits, A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998). This book is the primary resource consulted in drafting this article.

The Defense in Depth as a Revolutionary Battlefield Tactic

Part One of Four 

As a general statement, most people don’t think of the Revolutionary War as a testing ground for battlefield tactics. That assumption would not be correct. In fact, the Revolutionary War proved beyond doubt that traditional European set-piece battlefield tactics were largely ineffective against a determined enemy that was not bound by the traditional rules of war.  As just one example, the extremely effective hit and run tactics used by the Minutemen to harass and deplete the British forces that marched to Lexington and Concord that were based on the tactics used by Native American fighters prove this beyond doubt. The British Regulars had no experience or training in dealing with these tactics, and they suffered as a result.

Also, in the European model, wherein gentlemen fought wars and assiduously avoided civilian casualties, it was considered impolite and improper to target the other side’s officers during the course of battle. American forces refused to comply with these rules, causing serious losses among the ranks of British officers, and the British had to adapt to these tactics also.

Another tactic adopted by American officers proved to be incredibly effective during the campaigns in the South in 1781. Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan and Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene, in particular, made extremely effective use of the defense in depth in carrying out their Fabian strategy during the Southern Campaigns of the Revolutionary War.

A Fabian strategy—named for its most famous practitioner, the Roman dictator, Quintus Fabius Maximus Verruscosus—avoids pitched battles and frontal assaults in favor of wearing down an opponent through a war of attrition and indirection. While avoided decisive battles, the side employing a Fabian strategy harassed the enemy through skirmishes to inflict losses, disrupt supply, and affect enemy morale. Typically, the employment of this strategy suggests that the side adopting it believes that time is on its side. George Washington was absolutely convinced that a Fabian strategy would ultimately wear down the British, and he was right.

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General Nathanael Greene, who mastered the Fabian strategy in the Southern Campaign of 1781

His protégé, Greene, also believed that a Fabian strategy was the way to defeat the British. Faced with the task of defending a large swath of the South with a small army, he had little choice. His subordinate, Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan, a rough but extremely effective amateur soldier, pioneered the use of a defense in depth at the Battle of Cowpens in January 1781, and Greene then used it on a larger scale at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse about sixty days later. That two untrained amateur soldiers could develop and use such a tactic so effective demonstrates their genius.

A defense in depth, also known as a deep or elastic defense, seeks to delay, rather than prevent, the advance of an attacker, buying time and inflicting additional casualties by trading time for space. Instead of facing an attacker with a single, strong defensive position, a defense in depth relies upon the tendency of an attack to lose momentum and cohesion over time as it covers a larger area. Thus, a defender can yield lightly defended territory in an effort to outstrip an attacker’s logistics or spread out a numerically superior attacking force. Once that attacker has lost momentum, or has become spread out to hold territory, well-planned and well-placed counterattacks can be directed at the attacker’s weak points, with the objective of causing attrition warfare or driving the attacker back to its original starting position.

A conventional defensive strategy concentrates all of a defender’s military resources in a well-defended front line, which, if breached by an attacker, would expose the remaining troops in danger of being flanked, cut off, and surrounded, and leaving lines of supply, communications, and command vulnerable to being cut.

By contrast, a defense in depth requires that defenders deploy their resources, such as prepared fortifications, earthworks, and additional forces at and well behind the front line. Once an attacker breaches the weaker initial position, it continues to meet resistance as it presses on. As the attacker penetrates further, its flanks become vulnerable, and if the advance stalls, the attacking force can find itself completely surrounded and subject to being destroyed or forced to surrender. Thus, a defense in depth is particularly effective against an attacker that can concentrate its force to attack a small number of places along an extended defensive position.

In a well-designed and properly implemented defense in depth, the defending forces fall back to a succession of prepared positions designed to inflict a heavy price on the advancing enemy while minimizing the risk of being overrun or outflanked. By delaying the enemy’s advance, a defense in depth neutralizes manpower advantages and the element of surprise, and buys time for additional forces to be readied for well-timed counterattacks. A well-designed defense in depth will use its forces in mutually supporting positions and in appropriate roles. In this scenario, poorly trained soldiers—such as militiamen—can be used in static positions at the front line, while more experienced and better-trained soldiers can form a mobile reserve, or man the ultimate defensive position to be defended.  Further, a well-designed defense in depth will make good use of the natural advantages offered by terrain features and other natural obstacles such as streams, ponds, etc.

General Nathanael Greene, who mastered the Fabian strategy in the Southern Campaign of 1781

There are disadvantages associated with the defense in depth. For one thing, constantly retreating can take a toll on the morale of defending forces. Further, these forces also require a high degree of mobility to accommodate those retreats, and also the space to do so.

Morgan designed and implemented a very effective defense in depth at Cowpens that proved so effective that Greene adopted that tactic and, while he lost the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, the heavy losses his army imposed on Lord Cornwallis’ army prompted Greene to note that the British, “have met with a defeat in a victory.”

Southern Campaigns American Revolutionary War RoundTable

Emerging Revolutionary War is dedicated to promoting the continued learning and interest in the American Revolutionary War era. Starting this month, the blog will highlight one American Revolutionary War Round Table. So, continue to check back for a round table, historical society, and/or history study group near your neck of the woods.


Founded in 2004 with a “magnificent seven” men that were interested in visiting the hallowed fields of the American Revolution and having a forum to discuss the events that unfolded on those grounds.

However, unlike the majority, if not all, of military round tables around the country, the Southern Campaigns American Revolutionary War Roundtable (SCARWRT) does not have the traditional “dinner-speaker” setup for their meetings. Their meeting happens semi-annually at historic sites in Georgia and the Carolinas and constitutes an all-day Saturday gathering with numerous speakers and a field trip to sites to conclude.

There are no member dues, by-laws, or even a round table constitution and one can be a novice student in the era of American history or a life-long enthusiast. More information can be found on the Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution website;

One caveat, the website mentioned above does not belong to the SCARWWT but there has been a strong connection over the years between the two.

Check the website above or the “American Revolutionary War Round Table” link at the top of this page to get in contact with the SCARWRT.

Author Interview & Review: Otho Holland Williams in the American Revolution by John Beakes

ERW Book Reviews (1)

Numerous biographies grace the shelves of book stores, museum shops, and the personal libraries of American Revolutionary Era history enthusiasts. Yet, until 2015, not a single dedicated biography was written about an extraordinary American general that rose from the ranks during the war to assume such a lofty position by the successful conclusion of the conflict.

That unintentional omission has now been filled with the excellently detailed oriented and primary source driven biography entitled Otho Holland Williams in the American Revolution by John Beakes. The author is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and a resident of Ellicott City, Maryland.

I had a chance to interview the author via email and one of the questions I asked him was if there was one takeaway you wanted your readers or those interested in the book to know, what would it be? His answer is below and sums up the importance of Williams and soldiers like him:

“Otho Holland Williams was a vibrant, healthy young man with distinctive intellectual gifts and leadership capabilities when he joined the army at age 26 in 1775.  Had there been no War of Independence, he might well have lived a long life enjoying the family relationships that he cherished so deeply, and have risen to a position of prominence and wealth.

Instead, Williams died at age 45, spitting up blood and much weakened in body and spirit from the tuberculosis that he had contacted while a prisoner-of-war in New York after the Battle of Fort Washington.

We owe much to the young men like Williams who gave so much in the fight for our nation’s independence, and yet he is largely forgotten.

Here, truly, was a life laid in sacrifice on the altar of our freedom.”

This biography is part of an ongoing effort by The Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of America to publish a biography on the chief lieutenants that served under and with George Washington and were instrumental in winning American Independence. Previous volumes in the series include titles on John Eager Howard and Henry “Light-Horse” Lee. The series is entitled, “George Washington’s Best Officers Book Series” and definitely worth the read for the enthusiastic and/or serious student of the American Revolution.


So, why was Otho Holland Williams chosen as the third installment? I asked the author and his response is below;

“Otho Holland Williams kept appearing in all of the key moments of the story of the war in the South, but always tantalizingly just beneath the surface, hidden in the shadow of larger figures like Nathanael Greene and Daniel Morgan.  Williams was a compelling writer, and his descriptions of battles like Camden and Eutaw Springs are superbly written and deeply insightful observations of a first-hand participant.  His leadership of the Screening Force during the Race to the Dan displayed combat leadership skills of the first order, but his life story was largely untold.”

Furthermore, the reader will glean that Williams is the quintessential depiction of the American soldier, rising from the ranks to one of the top positions in the Southern theater by war’s end. The process, superbly told by Beakes, winds the reader from the early days of the revolutionary movement in western Maryland to the Siege of Boston, to the defeats of the New York Campaign. Those achievements and setbacks combined to give Williams the invaluable training as a military officer. For Williams, like a majority of the men who would hold rank in the American forces;

“Military knowledge and experience were scant commodities in the colonies at the start of the Revolutionary War, and young men like Howard, Lee and Williams joined the army in their twenties with virtually no prior military experience.  There were no institutions such as military academies, officer candidate schools, or ROTC to help them learn.  They read all the available military literature.  They observed leaders like Washington, and took in the written guidance that he provided, often in General Orders, for how to develop into effective officers. And most importantly, they learned by experience in the daily rigor of military discipline and in their various combat engagements.  

Starting with such “bare bones” learning opportunities, in the short years between 1775 and 1780, when the Southern Campaigns began, these young officers had become exceptional military leaders, and the army that they led was as fine a combat organization as any on earth.  It is a story of grit and determination and persistence that brought these young civilians to such a high state of military capability.”

During this early part of the war, Williams also became a prisoner-of-war after the fall of Fort Washington during the New York Campaign of 1776. After being exchanged, Williams would feel the affects of his imprisonment which would eventually cause his death in 1794 from tuberculosis.

Yet Williams, like many other junior officers, are still worth studying in history, as Beakes claims, because,

“With the resources available today, we have a powerful opportunity to take a fresh look at these stories. Unfortunately, our fresh look at original sources sometimes reveals that writers along the way have perpetuated false information, sometimes from honest mistakes, but also sometimes from blatant political motives. 

We have an important opportunity to correct the record. Stories like those of Otho Holland Williams give readers a look at the War of Independence from the front-lines and from ground level, a perspective that fills out and enriches the more strategic insights of the well-known works on the Founders.”

This book, like two previous volumes in the series, is definitely a worthy addition to any avid reader of the American Revolutionary Era. If these great in-depth biographies already grace your private library, don’t worry there is more biographies in the works. Beakes is currently working on research for a volume on Baron de Kalb.

Stay tuned and enjoy the read!


*Book Information*

Publisher: The Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of America
Published Date: November 5, 2015
346 pages, including appendices, bibliography, notes, and index

Click here to view the website where further information, including how to purchase the book, is available.

“Our clocks are slow” L’Hermione, Lafayette and the Franco-American Alliance


Marquis de Lafayette

With the visit of the L’Hermione to the east coast of the United States this summer, there has been a heightened interest in the Franco-American alliance that won the American Revolution.  The French rebuilt the L’Hermione not only for its beauty but also its historical significance.  Most importantly, its mission and the passenger it contained when it arrived in Boston in the fall of 1780.

The spring of 1780 was a low point in the American cause of independence.  Stagnation in the north between Washington and British commander General Sir Henry Clinton combined with devastating defeats in the Southern Theater caused low morale among the patriots.  Cornwallis had complete control over the Southern colonies and no standing American force seemed to be able to stop his movements.  Continue reading ““Our clocks are slow” L’Hermione, Lafayette and the Franco-American Alliance”