RECENT, PAST PROGRAMS
AMERICAN REVOLUTION ROUND TABLE:
The 11 November 2015 program was presented by John Maass. In 1781, Virginia was invaded by formidable British forces that sought to subdue the Old Dominion. Lieutenant General Charles, Lord Cornwallis, led thousands of enemy troops from Norfolk to Charlottesville, burning and pillaging. Many of Virginia's famed Patriots-including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry-struggled to defend the commonwealth. Only by concentrating a small band of troops under energetic French general the Marquis de Lafayette were American forces able to resist British operations. With strained support from Governor Jefferson's administration, Lafayette fought a campaign against the veteran soldiers of Lord Cornwallis that eventually led to the famed showdown at Yorktown.
John Maass is a historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military. History, Fort McNair, Washington, D.C. He received a BA in history from Washington & Lee University, an MA in U.S. history from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a PhD in early U.S. history from the Ohio State University. He is the author of North Carolina and the French and Indian War: The Spreading Flames of War (The History Press) and Defending a New Nation, 1783-1811 (U.S. Army Center of Military History).
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2 September 2015 program, "The Battle of Hubbardton: The Rear Guard Action that Saved America" was presented by Dr. Bruce Venter.
The Battle of Hubbardton was perhaps the loss that saved the war for the patriots. British and German troops ran into stubborn rebel resistance at Hubbardton, Vermont, on July 7, 1777. After easily capturing Fort Ticonderoga, Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne pursued a retreating Continental army under Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair. In the fields and hills around Hubbardton, a tenacious American rear guard of about 1,200 men, Continentals and militia commanded by Col. Seth Warner, upset the British general's plan for a quick march to Albany and possible junction with the army of Gen. Sir William Howe and Brig. Gen. Barry St. Leger. The British won a tactical victory, that left the British and Germans bloodied. Together with the Battle of Bennington in August, this battle helped to set the stage for the decisive battle that ended with Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga on October 17, 1777, which encouraged the French to enter the alliance which ensured American independence.
Dr. Bruce M. Venter is president of America's History, LLC, a tour and conference company where he leads Revolutionary War tours, and produces the highly successful annual conference on the American Revolution at Colonial Williamsburg. Bruce is also 1st vice president of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond and was 1st vice president of the Goochland County Historical Society. His most recent book, The Battle of Hubbardton: The Rear Guard Action that Saved America was published in March 2015 by The History Press.
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6 May 2015, "Confining the Enemies of the Revolution: The Treatment of Prisoners of War in American Custody," was presented by Cole Jones, Ph.D. His talk was based on the results of his research on the American treatment of British and Loyalist prisoners during the Revolutionary War. Some of the results were surprising and contrary to many common misperceptions. For example, while the Americans did not have the infamous prison ships, the conditions in the camps where enemy prisoners were held were austere and often lacking in an adequate supply of basic necessities. Dr. Jones pointed out that this was not intentional cruelty, but often resulted from a lack of funds from the Continental Congress, or the unwillingness of state governments to assume responsibility for what they viewed as a Continental program. On the subject of the inhuman conditions of the British ships aboard which American prisoners suffered greatly, Dr. Jones pointed out that British authorities had no choice but to use the unhealthy and squalid rotting hulks since the British army controlled very little territory on which to erect suitable encampments. Dr. Cole also explained the workings of the prisoner exchange cartels, and the problems of negotiated terms of surrender. Dr. Cole explained how the treatment of the Convention Army following Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga proved problematic, when Congress refused to repatriate the British and German prisoners, as agreed to in the surrender convention, which would have negated the advantage of the military victory.
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4 March 2015, "A Sea Change: Naval Warfare in the American Revolution during the spring of 1778,
" was presented by Dr. Dennis Conrad of the Naval History and Naval
Dr. Conrad spoke on naval warfare in the American Revolution during the
spring of 1778, the period covered by the newest Naval Documents of the
American Revolution volume (all twelve volumes are available online for
free at the following link: http://www.history.navy.mil/research/publications/naval-documents-of-the-american-revolution.html ).
Dr. Conrad argued that this was a vital period in the naval war. For
one, it became a worldwide war when the French declared war on Great
Britain in early May of 1778. He also noted that due to confusion and
misjudgment, the British navy failed to send a fleet to intercept Comte
d'Estaing's fleet as it left the Mediterranean Sea for the Atlantic
Coast. When the British finally sent Admiral John Byron and his fleet
to supplement Lord Howe's fleet in North America, Byron's fleet was
scattered by a fierce storm, so that d'Estaing had a window of
opportunity to attack the British in North America. But d'Estaing was
too slow, spending time exercising his men in maneuvers, chasing prizes
and going only as fast as his slowest ship. He was a few weeks too slow
to trap and destroy a fleet carrying troops and most of William Howe's
supplies from Philadelphia to New York City. Dr. Conrad also noted that
while the Continental Navy and American privateers could not challenge
the power of the Royal Navy in North America or the Caribbean, they
could find success on the edges. For one, there was John Paul Jones's
spectacular raid on the British coast, the first in more than a century,
including the burning of some ships at Whitehaven and a failed attempt
to kidnap a Scottish earl (who used to employ Jones's father). The
British public grew frantic, with mothers telling their children that if
they did not behave the pirate Jones would come take them in the night.
There were also American privateers that helped ruin the economy of the
slave trade in Africa. For example, the privateer Marlborough captured
an English slaver that carried 300 slaves (the privateer's captain did
not release them, but instead brought them to South Carolina where the
slaves were sold). American raids on British commerce caused insurance
rates to spike, at one point to more than 20% of the value of the cargo
on certain voyages.
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5 November 2014, "The American Revolution: A Historical Guidebook
" was presented by Ms Frances H. Kennedy who edited the recently
published (2014 by Oxford University Press) book with this title. Her
presentation provided a brief overview of the book that reviewed sites
marking key events of the revolution. Ms Kennedy addressed these events
in chronological order, beginning with the colonists' protests that led
to the British occupation of Boston in 1768, and continued through the
years of the Revolutionary War, and the ratification of the Constitution
and the Bill of Rights.
The book guides general readers, students, and travelers to 147 historic
places in twenty states. The book's content is drawn from the National
Park Service "Report to Congress on the Historic Preservation of
Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Sites in the United States". It
includes excerpts from 95 leading books on the Revolution and images of
historic documents from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, the Library of
Congress, and the National Archives. It also includes photographs from
the National Museum of American History of Washington's camp kit and
writing case and Jefferson's portable desk. The Conservation Fund,
headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, dedicates the book to all
Americans and its proceeds to the protection of historic places.
Ms Frances H. Kennedy was Director of the Civil War Battlefield
Campaign, from 1988 until 2006, which, with its partners, protected
nearly 9,000 acres of "hallowed ground" on America's Civil War
battlefields. She is the editor and principal contributor of The Civil War Battlefield Guide.
It includes the 384 principal battlefields in the National Park Service
report. The book guides battlefield preservation as well as visitors.
The royalties are dedicated by The Conservation Fund to battlefield
preservation. In 1994 the National Trust for Historic Preservation
published, Dollar$ and Sense of Battlefield Preservation,
which she co-authored with Douglas R. Porter. It encourages communities
to preserve their historic land by documenting the greater economic
benefits of preservation over development. She is the editor and
principal contributor of American Indian Places, published
in 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Company. It includes 366 places of
significance to American Indians that are open to the public.
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3 September 2014, "The National Museum of the American Revolution"
was presented by Scott Stephenson, Director of Collections &
Interpretation at The National Museum of the American Revolution in
Philadelphia. His excellent slide aided overview described the Museum's
collection, exhibition plans, and programing initiatives. The goals of
the museum are to bring to life the events, people and ideals of the
founding of the United States and to inspire an appreciation of the
importance of the struggle that created American democracy. The museum
received final approval for its architectural plans from the
Philadelphia Art Commission in May 2014 and will be located just two
blocks from Independence Hall. The museum is currently under
construction in historic Old City Philadelphia, and is scheduled to open
in late 2016.The core of the museum's collection and institutional
ancestry is the old Valley Forge Historical Society, founded by the Rev.
W. Herbert Burk, who in 1909 envisioned creating a national shrine to
commemorate George Washington and the Valley Forge encampment. In the
early 2000s it was decided to move the project to Philadelphia. A land
exchange with the National Park Service was concluded in 2010, followed
by fund raising and an architectural design for the new museum.The speaker described the museum's mission being
to reinvigorate the public's better understanding of the American
Revolution; to inspire study of the history of the revolution; and to
have a sense of the events that inspired some of the nation's greatest
moments. The storyline starts from the latter part of the French and
Indian War (around 1760), when George Washington, Benjamin Franklin were
among a diverse cast of characters who were viewed as patriotic members
of the British empire. A key challenge being undertaken my the museum
is to explain how these patriotic Britons became ‘revolutionaries', and
to show the radical nature of the revolution which resulted in a
democratic republic. The speaker briefly overviewed major components of
the museum's collection: weapons, uniforms, manuscripts and early
printed works, original journals, commemorative art, and planned
Mr. Stephenson provided considerable detail on General
Washington's canvas field headquarters composed of a suite of tents –
informally called the "First Oval Office." It is a large, oval-shaped
"marquee" that served as the sleeping and office tent for the first
commander-in-chief of the United States armed forces. For long stretches
of each campaign, Washington slept and directed his staff
within this canvas structure. Even when Washington's headquarters were
located in private dwellings, the sleeping tent was usually pitched near
at hand. Within its folds of this 'marquee', Washington sought privacy
and seclusion necessary to commune with himself, and where he wrote many
of his memorable dispatches in the Revolutionary War. This tent is now
owned by the Museum of the American Revolution. It is the focus of
multi-year, interdisciplinary collaborative effort to locate, document,
preserve and reconstruct the elements of Washington's Revolutionary War
field headquarters. One can read more from the speaker's article posted
on the Internet at http://amrevmuseum.org/first-oval-office/first-oval-office.
Further information is available at the main website for The National Museum of the American Revolution at http://amrevmuseum.org/
Scott Stephenson holds an MA and Ph.D. in American History from the
University of Virginia. He has developed and collaborated on exhibits,
films and interpretive programs for numerous historical sites and
organizations, including Colonial Williamsburg, the Smithsonian, the
Canadian War Museum, the National Park Service, George Washington's
Mount Vernon, the Heinz History Center, and the Museum of the Cherokee
Indian. Before joining the Museum of the American Revolution as Director
of Collections and Interpretation in 2007, Stephenson served on the
production team of the four-hour PBS series "The War That Made America,"
and developed, curated, and authored the companion catalog for a
award-winning international loan exhibition, 'Clash of Empires: The
British, French and Indian War, 1754-1763'.
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Reminder that ARRT Programs are open to the public. See information box earlier in this page, following announcement for the forthcoming program.
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American Revolution Round Table