The 4 March 2015 program "A Sea Change: Naval Warfare in the American Revolution during the spring of 1778, " will be presented by Dr. Dennis M. Conrad, a historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). Conrad considers the spring of 1778 to be a time when the naval war changed fundamentally and dramatically. Developments he will highlight include: the internationalization of the naval war, including the sailing of the fleet of the Comte d'Estaing to America and the British response; a re-direction in British strategy that included some retrenchment on the North American mainland; a new aggressiveness on the part of the Continental Navy that increasingly brought the war to European waters. This presentation will also address American naval successes along the periphery of North America, i.e., East Florida/Georgia, Spanish Louisiana/British West Florida and Nova Scotia in North America and Africa; an increase in the numbers and effectiveness of Loyalist privateers in American waters; the questioning of the reputation of the Continental Navy and its officers by fellow Americans; and questions of the allegiance and power of ordinary seamen in the Continental Navy. Many of these changes, although vitally important in understanding the American Revolution, have been virtually ignored in history books. This talk,will use material found in the newly-published "Naval Documents of the American Revolution," volume 12, that provides a fresh and exciting perspective to anyone interested in the Revolutionary War.
Dr. Dennis M. Conrad is associate editor for the Naval Documents of the American Revolution series and has published an essay on John Paul Jones. He is currently the lead historian for an electronic documentary edition on the US Navy in the Spanish-American War and a book-length study of Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy during World War I. Prior to coming to the NHHC, Dr. Conrad was the principal editor and project director for volumes 7 through 12 of the award-winning Papers of General Nathanael Greene, published by the University of North Carolina Press. Those volumes covered Greene's time as Continental Army commander in the South. Dr. Conrad has published several essays concerning Greene's campaigns in the South, which were also the subject of his doctoral dissertation at Duke University.
RECENT, PAST PROGRAMS
AMERICAN REVOLUTION ROUND TABLE:
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 multimedia exhibits.
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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7 May 2014, "British Strategy after Saratoga (1777)" was presented by Colonel (Retired) Kevin J. Weddle, Ph.D, who talked on the significant adjustments the British undertook to their war strategy following their surprising defeat at the Battles of Saratoga in September-October 1777. Col. Weddle's presentation highlighted British leadership reactions that were extensively addressed in his
article, "A Change of Both Men and Measures" published in the July 2013 issue of the Journal of Military History.
In the months after their disastrous Battles of Saratoga in September-October 1777, the British government was immersed in a highly charged political atmosphere as they attempted to formulate a comprehensive strategic reassessment. The speaker chose to analyze the process as addressing 'ends', 'ways', and 'means' of a new military strategy for the American war.
Initially the British senior ministers and the king were open to recasting their earlier perceptions and fundamental conceptions on how to deal with the American Rebels, and there was an awareness to improve better consultation with British theater commanders. Also the British leaders recognized the futility of crushing the Rebels with simple military force. The rebellion was more broadly based – especially in the northern colonies – than had been originally perceived by the British London based leadership prior to 1777. Further, it was recognized that the number of American port cities which needed to be occupied to conduct an effective naval blockade exceeded British military and naval resources. The initial reassessment conceived by the British authorities were to offer a ‘peace commission' that allowed some adjustments short of independence and to concentrate direct military land campaigns toward the southern colonies that were perceived to be less supportive of breaking with the Crown.
Most noteworthy was France's more open support of the American Rebels – marked by the February, 1778, "Treaty of Alliance" – with the newly formed United States. This Franco-American Alliance presented Great Britain with a significantly larger geographical and sizable combined military/naval challenge that forced British leaders to reformulate their previous objectives. The challenge to the British leadership was no longer merely subduing a rebellion, but now to defend parts of the British Empire.
Col. Weddle emphasized that the British post-Saratoga strategic reassessment was not conducted in a vacuum. George III, Lord North, Germain, and the other British ministers not only had to deal with
greatly improved American morale and confidence, but they also had to face the possibility of a general war with France and Spain. This meant providing defense of the homeland and protection of British world trade. They were confronted with increasing domestic political opposition and had to work through serious personality conflicts among senior military commanders and within the cabinet itself.
Colonel Kevin Weddle is Professor of Military Theory and Strategy at the US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. He is a native Minnesotan, graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and served over 28 years as a combat engineer officer. Throughout his career he worked in a variety of command and staff positions in the United States and overseas and he is a veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Colonel Weddle's assignments included service as a platoon leader, assistant battalion operations officer, company executive officer, company commander and tours of duty at West Point, Germany, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Pentagon. He also served as operations officer for the 555th Combat Engineer Group, battalion commander of the 299th Engineer Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, and was selected for brigade command before joining the US Army War College faculty. At the War College he was the director of the Advanced Strategic Art Program, served as the Deputy Dean of Academics, and held the General Maxwell D. Taylor Chair in the Profession of Arms.
Colonel Weddle holds masters degrees in history and civil engineering from the University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. in history from Princeton University. He has written numerous articles for popular and scholarly journals and his first book, Lincoln's Tragic Admiral: The Life of Samuel Francis Du Pont (University of Virginia Press, 2005), won the 2006 William E. Colby Award, was runner up in the Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Naval History Prize competition, and won the Army War College's faculty writing award. He is currently writing a strategic history of the Saratoga campaign for the Oxford University Press.
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5 March 2014, "Kidnapping the Enemy: the Special Operations to Capture Generals Charles Lee and Richard Prescott" was presented by Christian McBurney who talked on his recently published book of the same title. The presentation centered on developments that began 13 December 1776 with a British reconnaissance mission being informed by Loyalists that a senior American commander was staying at an isolated tavern in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. With this intelligence, the British force under Lieutenant Colonel William Harcourt and Cornet Banastre Tarleton of the British dragoons conducted a surprise night raid that managed to capture Major General Charles Lee, second-in-command in the Continental Army, behind only George Washington. While the circumstances of Lee's capture were embarrassing and his personal character left a lot to be desired, his extensive command experience in British and other European military establishments, and his positive performance at the 1775 repulse of a British attack on Charleston made Lee appear to be a valuable senior officer. The capture of such a significant America Rebel commander inspired some Americans to consider a counter scheme to acquire an equally high ranking British officer and elicit a possible exchange of prisoners.
The opportunity arose when Major William Barton, of the Rhode Island Militia, learned that Major General Richard Prescott, who commanded the British garrison occupying Newport and the rest of Aquidneck Island, was staying at a private house in Portsmouth. On the night of 9-10 July 1777, William Barton led a party in whaleboats across Narragansett Bay — carefully avoiding British navy ships — to Newport, Rhode Island. Although the town was occupied by more than 3,000 British soldiers, Barton's raiding party stealthily landed and proceeded along a little known path to the farmhouse where General Prescott was known to be spending his nights. Surrounding the house, the Rhode Island troops seized the sleeping Prescott, as well as his aide-de- camp and a sentry. The American raiding party, with their British prisoner, quickly returned to their whaleboats boats. Barton's party took their prize back to Warwick Point, and then to Providence. This was the second time Prescott had been captured and become an object of prisoner exchange. The overall British commander in chief, General Sir William Howe, eventually agreed to the 6 May 1778 exchange of Prescott for Charles Lee.
Mr.McBurney addressed this military ‘special operation' as one of many other attempts to kidnap high-ranking military officers and government officials during the war, including ones organized by and against George Washington. Mr. McBurney noted that the low success rate of such ventures made the raids that captured Lee and Prescott especially noteworthy.
Equally significant were the subsequent developments pertaining to the main protagonists, which Mr.McBurney quickly highlighted – leaving the details to be found in ‘reading his book'.
Both of the exchanged Major Generals emerged from these incidents with tarnished reputations owing to their respective carelessness leading to their captures. Prescott briefly resumed his command in Rhode Island, but was almost immediately superseded by Sir Robert Pigot.
Charles Lee emerged from 1776-78 events under some suspicion of his conduct while held by the British, and later further exposed his leadership incompetence at the battle of Monmouth on 28 June 1778. Eventually a series of negative incidents led to Lee's dismissal from the Continental Army in January of 1780.
The Continental Congress gave Willaim Barton a sword and he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Eventually he was made colonel in the Rhode Island Militia with "rank and pay of colonel in the Continental Army." He was gravely wounded while trying to rally American militia against a British raiding party at Bristol and Warren, Rhode Island, on 25 May 1778. He never fully recovered from this injury. In June 1779, he led a company of light infantry operating in boats in Narragansett Bay; and served until the end of the war. In 1783 Barton became an original member of the Rhode Island Society of the Cincinnati. Unfortunately he encountered personal financial difficulties that confined him to the debtors' prison for 14 years. At the age of seventy-seven, he was released at the initiative of the visiting Marquis de Lafayette, who agreed to pay the balance of his debt in 1784.
Mr. McBurney is an attorney in Washington, D.C., resides in Kensington, MD; and is a member of the DC ARRT. See publisher's website on McBurney's recent book at: http://www.westholmepublishing.com/kidnapping-the-enemy.php . Also learn more at our author's website: http://www.christianmcburney.com. Christian McBurney previously talked to the ARRT of DC on 7 March 2012, when he addressed his earlier publication: The Rhode Island Campaign: The First French and American Operation of the Revolutionary War.
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6 November 2013, "British Soldiers, American War,." was presented by Don N. Hagist.
Mr Hagist addressed reasons for his research and some challenges in producing his recent book, British Soldiers, American War: Voices of the American Revolution
(Westholme, 2013). The speaker began by explaining his interest to better understand the common British soldier in the American Revolution. For the most part, the narrative histories fail to treat these as individuals – in contrast to the attention given to the American soldiers and militia. Mr. Hagist decided to examine the experiences of the common British soldier as taken from their own personal writings. His search seeks to understand the common British soldiers as individuals and examine their personal situations before entering the British military service. One surprising finding was that until the very end of the war, all the rank and file British soldiers were recruited – they elected to enter into the military. Many had prior experience in trades or farming.
Rather than attempt to sumarize Mr. Hagist's observations expressed in his 6 November presenetation, it is best to direct the viewer's attention to his articles posted on the web: see http://allthingsliberty.com/author/don-n-hagist/. In particular, there the article "Top 10 Facts About British Soldiers" that can be viewed at http://allthingsliberty.com/2013/02/top-10-facts-about-british-soldiers/ .
Don N. Hagist is an independent researcher specializing in the demographics and material culture of the British Army in the American Revolution. He has spent much of his life studying and researching the history of the American Revolution, with a particular focus on British soldiers. He is the author of three books and numerous feature articles on the subject. He is editor of Journal of the American Revolution, and authored at least ten articles on line at http://allthingsliberty.com/author/don-n-hagist/. Don lives in Providence, Rhode Island. An engineer by profession, he works for a major electronics company.
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The 4 September 2013 program "As great a piece of Generalship as ever was performed: Reinterpretation of the Battle of Princeton, 3 January 1777." was presented by Wade P. Catts.
The illustrated lecture presented new information and, in some cases, reinterpretation of the battle of Princeton. The culminating battle of the "Ten Crucial Days," Princeton was a remarkable military maneuver that had far-reaching results for the American cause, and a major setback for the Crown.
Mr. Catts described in considerable detail the work undertaken by the Princeton Battlefield Society
and funded by a grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program
[Part of the National Park Service]. His talk reported on results of a significant, recently completed, study that employed historical records, personal letters and journals, maps, topography, and archeology to examine the battlefield. In particular, the speaker's use of projected visual aids demonstrated the effectiveness of geographic information system (GIS) methodology in such pursuits. 'GIS' being a disciplined application that integrates hardware, software for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying various forms of geographically referenced information. Some dramatic observations were recently revealed in this study. One is the suspected discovery the 'saw mill road', or 'back road', -- no longer on maps nor clearly evidenced -- taken by the Americans as they executed a night-time marched toward Princeton after the 'second' battle of Trenton (3 January 1777). As the Americans approached from the south, they fell into a 'meeting engagement' with some British forces that Cornwallis summoned from Princeton to join him at Trenton in anticipation of crushing the Americans -- who, of course, were no longer there. The 'battle' of Princeton was effectively a series of small, sporadic engagements at scattered locations. Though a famous American commander, Hugh Mercer, was killed, Washington managed to lead the Americans into Princeton, capturing some British as others escaped. The Americans did not stay long, and departed before Cornwallis arrived with his larger British army. The American army proceeded to Morristown (and winter quarters), and Cornwallis gave up his New Jersey invasion of 1777.
However, a significant part of this evening's program was about the 21st Century ‘Battle of Princeton'.
Unfortunately, the most historically significant part of the battlefield is in danger of being lost to modern development. The scene of Washington's counter-attack, the climax of the "ten crucial days" that saved American independence, is outside the boundary of the state park that commemorates the event. The Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS), which owns the property, has plans for a project that would build family housing for its faculty on this irreplaceable cultural resource. In the past, IAS generously donated acreage to the state of New Jersey to expand the adjacent historical park, while it retained ownership of this significant parcel. It had always been hoped the Institute would act as a responsible steward of that part of the battlefield which falls outside the park boundaries – possibly with a voluntary legal agreement such as a Historic Preservation Easement. That appears to not be IAS's intent.
The evening ended with appeals from both the program speaker and the President of the ARRT of DC, Glenn Williams. Both are involved with the Princeton Battlefield Society in its attempt to preserve what the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently named one of "America's Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places." Such a battle requires public support and legal action to preserve the site of one of the most important turning point events in our nation's history. Attendees were encouraged to consider joining the Princeton Battlefield Society, and/ or contributing to the legal fund to save the battlefield. Please see: http://www.theprincetonbattlefieldsociety.com for ways you can help.
Wade P. Catts is Associate Director of Cultural Resources with John Milner Associates, Inc., an historic preservation consulting firm based in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Mr. Catts served on the Princeton project team as an historical archeologist. He has worked on a number of Revolutionary War sites, including Cooch's Bridge, Fish Creek (Saratoga), Short Hills, Raritan Landing, Brandywine, Paoli, the Battle of the Clouds, Valley Forge, and the site of the Continental Powder Works on French Creek. He holds a graduate degree in American History from the University of Delaware.
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1 May 2013 , "Nathanael Greene's Northern Apprenticeship, 1775-1780" was presented by Curtis F. Morgan, Professor of History, Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC), Middletown, VA; and a recent member of our ARRT. Dr. Morgan's talk highlighted themes drawn from his essay, "A Merchandise of Small Wares': Nathanael Greene's Northern Apprenticeship, 1775-1780,"
that appeared in the collection General Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution in the South
, edited by Greg Massey and Jim Piecuch (Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2012).
Dr. Morgan explained Greene's accomplishments significantly a product of his early career serving under George Washington and earning Washington's trust in him. Like Washington, Greene evolved from a background of self study — extensive reading of classic writings with emphasis on military history. Also, like Washington, Greene learned from his errors and did not dismiss or excuse setbacks as the fault of others. He was a real 'problem solver' and recognized some of the pillars of successful military campaigns — such as the importance of maneuver, mobility and logistical planning.
Greene met George Washington at the latter's arrival to take command of the Patriot forces outside British held Boston in 1775. Greene's loyalty was repeatedly proven during the disastrous early campaigns of 1776, that left the British in control of Long Island and New York entrance to the Hudson river. However, during Washington's retreat through New Jersey Greene's carefully placed supply depots on the likely line of march kept the American army intact and enabled the counter offensive at Trenton and Princeton. Further, Greene remained a loyal supporter of Washington during the series of events in late 1777 and early 1778 suggesting that George Washington be replaced as commander of the Continental Army. Greene's administrative abilities and his skill in dealing with Congress persuaded Washington to appoint him Quartermaster General in 1778, a post he held for over two years. Washington urged Congress to appoint Greene commander of the American Southern Army, following the disgrace of General Gates with the American defeat at Camden (1780) in South Carolina.
It was here that Greene established his reputation as second only to Washington as the most significant American Army commander in the war. Greene proved to be a master of pursuing a scheme of mobile warfare with commensurate attention to logistics. While he experienced mostly tactical defeats in a series of battles, Greene kept his American forces on the strategic offensive — in almost all engagements he chose the location of battle ensuring his escape routes. A series of British 'Pyrrhic victories' in the Carolinas [at Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse] frustrated the ambitions of British general Charles Cornwallis and caused him to redirect his focus away from the Carolinas and to enter Virginia.
What was left of British forces in the Carolinas continued to be harassed by Greene with more encounters at Hobkirk's Hill and Eutaw Springs — in each case, the British 'won' the tactical battle but were left in lesser strategic straits. Eventually the British left in the south were compelled to gather in the port of Charleston, where Greene penned them during the remaining months of the war. Greene's success is credited as contributing to the Allied victory as much as Lafayette's Virginia campaign and the presence of overwhelming French military and naval forces that converged at Yorktown in 1781.
Dr. Curtis F. Morgan, Jr. has taught World and U.S. History at LFCC since August 2000. He earned his PhD in Modern European History from the University of South Carolina in 1998 and is the author of James F. Byrnes, Lucius Clay and American Policy in Germany, 1945-1947. Three entries of his ("Lord Fairfax", "Nathanael Greene", and "Winchester, VA") appear in the recently-launched Mount Vernon Digital Encyclopedia at http://www.mountvernon.org/encyclopedia. He is presently working on a military biography of General Nathanael Greene.
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The 6 March 2013 program was cancelled due to weather, and was rescheduled for 1 May 2013.
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7 November 2012 , "Invisible Ink: Spycraft of the American Revolution" was presented by John A. Nagy, who explained how espionage was critical to the successes and failures of both American and British efforts during the American Revolution.
In particular, the speaker highlighted how much George Washington relied on a vast spy network – as well as skillfully employing the tactics and operational strategies of deception in his military campaigns. The first two words of the title of Mr. Nagy's talk belied the fuller scope of his presentation – which was a robust overview of espionage during the war, particularly as it pertained to military and naval operations in the North American theater. He began his presentation by relating how General George Washington discovered Dr. Benjamin Church, surgeon general of the Continental Army, being a British spy during the 1775 siege of Boston. The mistress of Dr Church, a renowned Boston physician and member in the Massachusetts Committee of Safety Congress, was intercepted attempting to deliver an encoded communique from the doctor to British Brig Gen Thomas Gage. After some time the woman confessed, leading to Dr. Church's arrest and court martial. However, breaking the code in Dr. Chruch's message was the key factor is exposing the treachery. This also set the departure point for Mr. Nagy to explain how, at the time, the use of codes was more practiced by merchants than by most military headquarters. Fortunately for the Americans, they had some ‘merchant- wise officers, who recognized that the was a code and were able to break it.
The speaker made excellent use of visual aids to describe the ‘spycraft' art of the time that used codes, ciphers, dead drops, hidden compartments, mail intercepts, and deceptive logistical maneuvers. With diagrams, the speaker illustrated how various types of ciphers worked.
Even if one attends Mr. Nagy's talk, acquiring his book on the topic would be essential to fully grasp the varied and complex options in the craft at the time. Invisible Ink: Spycraft of the American Revolution (2010) is Mr. Nagy's second book. [His first book, Rebellion in the Ranks Mutinies of the American Revolution was published in 2007; and was the topic of an earlier ARRT of DC program.] A natural follow on to this 7 November presentation is Mr. Nagy's third book, Spies in the Continental Capital: Espionage Across Pennsylvania During the American Revolution (2011). During the presentation to the ARRT, Mr. Nagy alerted the audience that he is working on a new book that addresses spying in Europe during the same era.
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5 September 2012 , "German Mercenaries in the American Revolution" was presented by Keith Young
who described King George III's use of mercenary military units from what is now Germany to augment the British Army and Loyalist forces in the American war for Independence.
Nearly 30,000 German mercenary troops fought the American Patriots in most all the major campaigns and battles of the war. The "Hessians," as they became popularly known, actually came from several small independent states in German speaking communities in Europe. These small states and principalities had very limited economic opportunities. Their rulers supported their princely life-styles by recruiting their own subjects into military units that were hired out to foreign powers as trained, equipped, and professionally led mercenaries military contingents. Essentially they were ‘auxiliaries' to a foreign sovereign's army.
In the eighteenth century, Britain faced a serious shortage in manpower to deal with the challenges to control its global empire. Britain found it easier to borrow money to pay for their service than to recruit its own citzen soldiers. As a result the British King took advantage of employing professionally trained and equipped military contingents from these small sovereign principalities in German-speaking parts of Western Europe. These contingents were deployed as units, not as individuals. The troops received wages but the prince of their respective states received most of the funds. For the American War, the British King contracted with six rulers: Count William of Hesse-Hanau; Duke Charles I of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel; Prince Frederick of Waldeck; Margrave Karl Alexander of Ansbach-Bayreuth; Prince Frederick Augustus of Anhalt-Zerbst; and Landgrave Frederick II of Hesse-Kassel. The military contingents came as entire units with their own uniforms, flags, weapons and officers. The largest number of these forces came from Hesse-Kassel (12,992 of the total 30,067 men). These were also considered the best trained and equipped, and came with their own general staffs. Infantry Regiments made up of two battalions – one of fusiliers with some grenadiers distributed among the two battalions – but following British practice the grenadiers were concentrated into battalions. The contingents included small companies of light field artillery, and several included ‘Jägers' [light infantry] that were tactically effective in many of the American battles.
While the British cause did obtained some quality fighting units with this arrangement, and the British were able to conserve their own limited manpower inventories with the employment of ‘Hessians' in the American colonies, there were some negative aspects. The German-speaking troops provoked some resentment among the English speaking communities – Patriots and Loyalists alike. Where there was no resentment, there was temptation for some of the mercenaries to desert, and to seek a new life among a few of the German-speaking communities that had been established in the American colonies.
The speaker discussed the financial arrangements between the British crown and the ruling princes of the German-speaking units. While the ruling princes were paid for each death of one of their subjects, they lost money for every desertion of such individuals. This may explain an interesting observation that there were a large number of Hessian troops who were recorded as having "died" just before their trip back to Europe was to begin. The speaker concluded with another irony in finding that his search for a possible ancestor who may have been in the Hesse-Kassel Rahl Regiment was the wrong individual, and he discovered a more likely person was to be found in a French Navy unit made up primarily of German-speaking troops in Lauzun's Legion.
Keith Young is a graduate of the Naval Academy who has a long standing interest in military history. He retired from the Navy after a career in nuclear submarines. After he retired a second time, from maintenance consulting and training, he became an active lecturer on military history. He has spoken at many civil war round tables, community organizations, and educational institutions about American wars from the American Revolution to World War II. For a number of years now, he has conducted military history classes for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at GMU, the Lifelong Learning Institute of NOVA, and his favorite, Fairfax City's Green Acres Senior Center, where his dedicated class meets every week on Tuesday mornings.
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2 May 2012 , "Defending the New Nation, 1784-1811: Fact and Fiction about the U.S. Army on the Eve of the War of 1812" was presented by Glenn F. Williams.
The presentation addressed a void in the general study of American military history between the end of the Revolutionary War and the start of the War of 1812. This missing awareness has led to misunderstandings as to the less than brilliant performance of the U.S. Army in the earlier stages of the latter conflict that may be incorrectly placed.
Glenn opened his presentation by announcing that the status of the American military at the beginning of the War of 1812 was the product of mixed perceptions and dynamic debate as to the what were to be military defense needs of the new United States. The issues were first formally addressed by the Second Continental Congress which served as the de facto national government of what became the United States and prescribed the structure of the American military war effort during the War for Independence. The Second Continental Congress adopted the ‘Articles of Confederation' in 1781, and became known as the ‘Congress of the Confederation'. The ‘Articles of Confederation' structure lacked an executive branch, and was really an arrangement for the independent ex-colonial ‘states' to coordinate their collective diplomatic and military actions. As such, the ‘Congress' was the governing body of the United States of America from 1 March 781 to 4 March 1789, when the Constitution was adopted.
The ‘Congress of the Confederation' devised a military establishment which recommended that individual states organize volunteer companies to be grouped into regiments, and that the legislatures designate officers for the regiments raised within their respective states. The Congress of the Confederation appointed the general officers, but had no authority to levy taxes, which denied it an ability to assure provisioning military forces with needed resources. This was the responsibility of the respective states that effectively loaned their militias to serve along with – or serve as temporary parts of – a collective ‘continental army'.
From the beginning, the Confederation Congress representatives were predominantly protective of the sovereignty of their respective states. In prescribing a military structure the political debate among the representatives of the 13 states was a fear of established military institutions that could be used – much as was the British army – to suppress the popular expression of the majority. Standing armies in the hands of ‘any central authority' – such as a monarch or ‘Cromwellian' like dictator -- posed a threat to regional authorities that were presumed to reflect the true will of the people.
This foregoing perception, held by many of the political American leaders at the time, complemented another perception broadly held by the American population. The successful outcome of the war for Independence allowed the general American public to overlook many complications and some battlefield disasters that were produced under ‘Confederation' arrangement which relied heavily on a militia system. In reality, such a system led to arbitrary compliance by the individual states in equipping and deploying their militias. When such units arrived to serve in a military action, their effective collective employment was inhibited by non standard training, and frequently poor command leadership. Such military ‘inefficiencies' were recognized by only a small number of the American military leaders. When peace was gained in 1783, the general popular American perception easily embraced a preference for, and confidence in, the militia system where assembly of armed groups remained under ‘local' elected authorities. The need to maintain a prepared cohesive army – that had to be supported with taxes – appeared irrelevant.
By 1784, the Continental Army had withered to a small residual force guarding military stores at West Point and a few frontier outposts. Congress passed a resolution on 3 June 1784 that designated the oldest Regular Army infantry regiment as the ‘First American Regiment'.
By 1785 the nucleus of the original regular army regiment consisted of militia. Only 2 companies of artillery remained from the former Continental Army.
By 1786, evidence was accumulating that an inability to raise troops in peacetime would leave the United States unable to quell Indian troubles by rapid reinforcement of frontier garrisons. George Rogers Clark was compelled to turn back when he attempted to lead frontier militiamen against some Native American Indians. A Massachusetts militia was raised as a private army to deal with ‘Shay's Rebellion' of 1786-1787. However, the poor institutional response to the uprising suggested needed reevaluation of the Articles of Confederation, and led to Congress assembling the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, May 1787.
The debates over military structure to be prescribed in the Constitution largely centered around two contending major perceptions toward the role of an armed force in a republic government. On one side were the ‘Anti-Federalists' who generally continued with the earlier resistence to creating a standing land army, sought to limit the Constitution's military provisions. They were opposed by the ‘Federalist' – a party led by a smaller number of representatives who had experience military command during the Revolutionary war -- men like Alexander Hamilton, a former Continental Army officer. The debates fostered the two sides to evolve into standing political parties, where the ‘Anti-Federalists' became better identified as ‘Jeffersonian Republicans'.
The state elected delegates debated and approved the principal military articles of what became the Constitution on 27 August 1787 and went into effect on 4 March 1789. With the creation of an executive office – that of the ‘Presidency' – the constitution injected a means to shift collective defense authority from the States to the Federal power. During the debates, Federalists and Anti-Federalists agreed in principle that the existence of a well-trained and equipped militia could reduce the need for – or size of – a standing army. However, Congress balked at imposing true militia reform on the states.
The speaker quickly reviewed how the needed reforms were slowly accepted during the of the first four presidencies under the Constitution. Unfortunately much more needed to be done at the out set of the War of 1812. Again, as was the case during the Revolutionary War, the United States was fortunate that for the most part, the British armed forces had to contend with a European centered war.
Glenn F. Williams, an ARRT member, and a senior historian at the US Army Center of Military History. He is the author of Year of the Hangman: George Washington's Campaign against the Iroquois (Westholme Publishing) and the recipient of the Thomas J. Fleming Award for the
Outstanding Revolutionary War Book of 2005. He is also the author of USS Constellation: A Short History of the Last All-Sail Warship Built by the U.S. Navy (Donning, 2000), and a number of journal and magazine articles on military and naval history topics. He is a retired Army officer who entered public history as a second career, in which his previous positions include serving as the Historian for the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service, and Curator of the USS CONSTELLATION Museum. He holds a BA from Loyola College of Maryland, a MA in History from University of Maryland Baltimore County, and is presently a doctoral candidate in History at University of Maryland, College Park.
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7 March 2012, "The Rhode Island Campaign: The First French and American Operation of the Revolutionary War" was presented by Christian M. McBurney, author of his recently published (Westholme, 2011) book by the same title.
On July 29, 1778, a powerful French naval squadron sailed confidently to the entrance of Narragansett Bay. Its appearance commenced the first joint French and American campaign of the Revolutionary War. The new allies' goal was to capture the British garrison at Newport, Rhode Island. With British resolve reeling from the striking patriot victory at Saratoga the previous autumn, this French and American effort might just end the war.
As the French moved into the bay, surprised British captains scuttled or burned many of their vessels rather than risk capture, resulting in the most significant loss of warships suffered by the British navy during the war. French Admiral Comte d'Estaing then turned to sea to engage the main British fleet but his ships were scattered and damaged by a huge storm. After his flagship and two other ships were attacked, d'Estaing's squadron was taken out of the campaign.
The American army under General John Sullivan, meanwhile, was stranded on a small island near Newport without the expected French naval support. When they tried to retreat off the island, British and Hessian regulars were sent to destroy Sullivan's army; instead of a rout, a running battle ensued that lasted for more than six hours. Sullivan's army consisted of many of the same Continentals who had fought under Washington and had performed well at Monmouth Court House, in June of 1778. Continentals, brimming with confidence after their training during the winter of Valley Forge, once more proved that they were an improved effective fighting force.
On the East Road, a Massachusetts state regiment ambushed a British regiment and at one point two Continental regiments even staged a counter-attack; these troops later retreated in an orderly fashion to the main American lines, which held firm. On the West Road, the American army repelled three assaults by Hessian and Loyalist regulars and forced them to flee the field, one of the only times that occurred up to that time in the war. The advance redoubt was stoutly held by the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, the first segregated Continental unit (albeit with white commissioned and non-commissioned officers). While the Rhode Island Campaign ended in failure for the Americans and French, there were positive signs for the future of the alliance and the Revolution.
The Rhode Island Campaign: The First French and American Operation of the Revolutionary War unravels one of the most complex and multi-faceted events of the war, one which combined land and sea strategies and featured controversial decisions on both sides. Many prominent patriots participated, including Nathanael Greene, Marquis de Lafayette, John Hancock, and Paul Revere. Most important, while the campaign's failure led to harsh criticism of the French in some quarters, leaders such as Greene, Lafayette, and George Washington steadfastly worked to ensure that the alliance would remain intact, knowing that the next joint operation could well succeed.
Christian M. McBurney, a graduate of Brown University, is a partner in a Washington, DC, law firm. He is the author of several books and articles on early Rhode Island history, including A History of Kingston, Rhode Island, 1700-1900 and "British Treatment of Prisoners During the Occupation of Newport, 1776-1779." He is also a member of the ARRT of DC.
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2 November 2011, "The Continental Marines in the American Revolution." The program was presented by Charles Neimeyer (Ph.D), Director and Chief of U.S. Marine Corps History at Marine Corps University
, Quantico, Virginia. Dr. Neimeyer's presentation was scheduled to coincide with the 230th anniversary of the founding of the United States Marine Corps [USMC], and provided an overview on the US Marine Corps' creation and contribution during the American Revolution.
Dr. Neimeyer , described the creation and experiences of the Continental Marines during the American War for Independence. Like with other Continental war fighting structures, the Marines were patterned along traditions developed in the British armed forces, with which the rebellious colonists were most familiar. In this respect the Continental Marines shared with their model – the ‘Royal Marines' – an ambiguous status as to its ‘rolls and missions' [in modern jargon]. There was little question that the Marines would be part of the naval arm – in this case the Continental Navy that was founded by the Second Continental Congress on 13 October 1775. The Continental Marines were established 10 November 1775. In the eighteenth century, the Marines were seen as a special ‘maritime infantry' contingent directly under the control of the naval organization. Many of the duties of the marines were aboard ships – to keep order among the shipboard crews, to participate in firing firearms against crews of enemy ships, and to participate in hand-to-hand combat when boarding enemy ships. However, on occasions, such ‘maritime infantry' were deployed from ships and sent ashore to operate as land troops raiding enemy posts or guarding naval facilities. Continental Army leaders were aprehensive that the Marines presented competiiton, but the Congressional leaders recognized the need for an elite military contingent, conditioned [trained and motivated] to be deployed quickly, to adapt to a variety of tactical situations. The necessity to excite recruitment and to inspire morale encouraged the promotion of colorful legends and myths associated with the Corps. An example is that the first Marines were probably not recruited at the famous [but long extinct] ‘Tun Tavern' in Philadelphia. However, the Corp's first commander had owned a tavern in the city. The Continental Marines were disbanded at the end of the war in April 1783. The Corps was re-formed on July 11, 1798, and continued to celebrate its birthday as the tenth of November 1775.
Dr. Charles Neimeyer was the former Dean of Academics at the Naval War College and Forrest Sherman Chair of Public Diplomacy in Newport, RI, and a former Vice President of Academic Affairs at Valley Forge Military Academy and College. He has served as Academic Dean at the Naval War College, and was a full time professor of National Security Affairs from 1997-2002. Dr. Neimeyer's 20 year career as a Marine Corps officer, included tours in all three active Marine Divisions and service at the White House. While on active duty, he earned a Masters Degree and Ph.D. in History from Georgetown University.
Dr. Neimeyer authored a variety of history and national security affairs articles. In 1996, he published the widely acclaimed monograph, "America Goes to War: A Social History of the Continental Army, 1775 – 1783," by the New York University Press. He published a second monograph, "The Revolutionary War," (Greenwood Press, 2007) and recently edited a volume titled, On the Corps: USMC Wisdom: from the pages of Leatherneck, Marine Corps Gazette and Proceedings; published by the Naval Institute in 2008.
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7 September 2011, ARRT of DC program consisted of several announcements as the scheduled speaker was unable to attend. In spite of the exceptionally bad weather, there was a robust number of attendees. Some of the ARRT members took the opportunity to make expanded announcements.
Glenn Williams, President of the ARRT, announced the Fifteenth annual National Symposium of the War of 1812 to be held in Baltimore. Sponsored by the War of 1812 Consortium and the Council on America's Military Past, this year's symposium will be held on Saturday, 1 October, at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African-American History and Culture near the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. This year's theme is "The Civil War of 1812," which is the title of the recently published book by one of the featured speakers, Alan Taylor, Ph.D., professor of history at University of California, Davis. More information is at the web page: http://starspangled200.org/Events/Pages/Symposium.aspx
Glenn also mentioned the Napoleonic Historical Society's 2011 Napoleonic Conference. Also to be held in Baltimore at the Admiral Fell Inn at Fells Point, the weekend of 16-18 September. More information is at the web site:
Albert McJoynt, ARRT Secretary, made an announcement about the weekend of 10-11 September, when MountVernon will host the 230th commemoration of General Comte de Rochambeau's visit with Washington in 1781. This marked a special moment during the dramatic strategic movement of the American and French Allied forces from New York to Yorktown, Virginia, in September 1781. The only previous commemoration of this event was the bicentennial Mount Vernon gala in 1981. This historic occasion was Washington's first visit home after six years of war, and special occasion where Washington and Rochambeau would remain overnight in the same dwelling. The September 2011 Mount Vernon commemoration will involve hundreds of Revolutionary War re-enactors conducting military demonstrations. Part of the program includes "General Washington" and "General Rochambeau" describing the unique challenges facing the Allied Commanders during this critical phase initiating the Yorktown Campaign of 1781. More information is at:
"The 230th Anniversary of Washington and Rochambeau 2 Days at Mount Vernon".
Glenn offered a rejoinder to emphasize a significant aspect of the Washington-Rochambeau event at Mount Vernon, which was part the largest strategic redeployment of the Revolutionary War field armies in the critical North American theater. The daring venture to march the combined Franco-American army from New York to Yorktown was a tribute to Washington's ability as a strategic thinker and decisive decision maker. Remembering that General Washington's focus had been a planned attack to recapture New York City, even against Rochambeau's advice, but waiting on word if the French fleet would cooperate in such a challenging siege. When Rochambeau received a communication in early August from Admiral DeGrasse that the French fleet was heading to the Chesapeake, and would remain on station for only a matter of weeks, Washington shifted the focus of operations to Virginia. Within 72 hours of being notified of DeGrasse's destination, Washington had the first elements of the Continental Army on the march, with the rest of combined forces following in the now famous "March to Victory at Yorktown." Glenn likened it to the scene in the movie "Patton," when as the Battle of the Bulge was nearing its critical stage, and allied commanders were at a loss for actions to contain the German penetration and also relieve the besieged 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne; Lt. Gen. Patton announced to the meeting of allied commanders that his Third U.S. Army could change operations, and attack north with two corps toward Bastogne within 48 hours.
Mark Whatford, a new ARRT member and Librarian & Archivist at Gunston Hall [historic home of George Mason], took the opportunity to announce that The Gunston Hall Library & Archives has recently updated their website to include an index of research files available to patrons covering many aspects of colonial life. See http://www.gunstonhall.org/
Gunston Hall Library & Archives are also working with Mt. Vernon to make available a complete listing of their collections including rare books and
documents available for researchers, this should be launched in the next few weeks. In February 2012 Gunston Hall will have their annual Liberty Lecture
series and will keep the ARRT of DC updated on the speakers, dates and topics.
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4 May 2011, "British Treatment of American Prisoners in the Revolutionary War." The program was a joint presentation by Christian McBurney [ARRT of DC member] and guest David Swain.
Mr. McBurney recently published an article, "British Treatment of Prisoners During the Occupation of Newport, 1776-1779: Disease, Starvation and Death Stalk the Prison Ships," Newport History
, vol. 79, No. 263, 1-41 (Fall 2010). David Swain edited the recently-published Recollections of Life on the Prison Ship Jersey
(Yardley, PA: Westholme, 2010). Their dual presentation provided a summarization of the horrible treatment of American prisoners of war in New York City prisons as addressed in Edwin G. Burroughs' book Forgotten Patriots, the Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War
Mr McBurney's personal view, expressed at the outset, was that nations can be judged by how they treat wartime captives. He provided a quick comparison of the number of American prisoners' death rates over various past wars and how the death rate in British prisons in New York City was the highest of any war. Mr McBurney explained disease, starvation, unsanitary conditions and other factors produced a shocking number of deaths in British prisons in New York City. In part, the harsh treatment by British authorities was due to the special disdain they held for American "rebels." Mr. McBurney noted that starvation and disease also led to deaths on prison ships in Newport, which the British occupied from December 1776 to October 1779. However, there were differences: the death rate in Newport never approached the high death rate in New York City, and, after May 1778, there is no report of an American prisoner dying in Newport.
Mr. Swain's theme was an analytical assessment of a written account by one of the prisoners -- a twice captured Newport based privateer, Thomas Dring. Mr. Swain's Recollections of Life on the Prison Ship Jersey contains for the first time in print the complete text of Dring's handwritten journal. Previous publications of this most famous Revolutionary War journal were from summaries, not Dring's actual words. Mr. Swain found that Dring's written account appeared accurate when cross checked with other accounts and records. However there is the question as to why Dring took so long -- 42 years -- to write it? Mr. Swain theses is that the author felt a need to keep the memory alive.
Christian McBurney is an attorney at a Washington, D.C. law firm and has written several books and articles on early Rhode Island history, including The Rhode Island Campaign: The First French and American Operation of the Revolutionary War. David Swain received degrees in history from Oberlin College and the University of Michigan, and is currently a research assistant at the David Library of the American Revolution, Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania.
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2 March 2011, "Lafayette: The Idealist General." The program was presented by Mr. Marc Leepson
who described Lafayette in context of
producing a volume [published this March] to go with the Macmillan publisher's series on "World Generals." Mr. Leepson explained that his research led "to one year with Lafayette." He was pleased to find not only many quality historical biographies on the marquis, but particularly welcomed the existence of a large repository of personal correspondence that permitted a deep examination into the marquis' character. The challenge in research was to take in the long involvement Lafayette had in great political movements of late 18th and early 19th century Western world. Any speaking presentation is further challenged to capture a life that spanned three revolutions in a concise talk.
As described in the publisher's advance description of Mr. Leepson's book, Lafayette's life story is the stuff of legend. Born into an aristocratic French family of warriors. As his father was killed in the Seven Years' War when Lafayette was 2 years old, the young marquis spent his formative years in an idyllic setting and under the supervision of strong willed women, his mother, his grand mother and an aunt. His mother's moved with her son to Paris and entered Lafayette into the most prestigious schools and social strata. Through his mother's side, he eventually inherit enormous wealth. He was made lieutenant in the French Royal Guard at age 14, at 16 he married the daughter of another high noble family. At 19 he volunteered at his own expense to fight in the American Revolution. His first real test was being a military leader in the American Continental Army – as a 20 year old Major General with no prior combat experience.
However, Lafayette came to America with some unusual attributes not held by the usual military volunteers from Europe. The 19 year old Lafayette had not formed strong social prejudices, and he foresaw his inevitable military career as an opportunity to seek an honorable role in life – military glory was not in conquest but in service to king and family, and nation. His young impressionable mind and aspirations were conditioned by legendary military heroic narratives and excited by the humanistic goals espoused in the Enlightenment rhetoric circulating in eighteenth century Western Europe. This unusual background contributed to the young French aristocrat's winning the personal acceptance among many American colonial leaders in the War for Independence and later leaders in the new Republic. Lafayette's favor among Americans benefitted considerably by France's increasingly more active support that enable the startling success of the American revolt. Lafayette was fortunate to win the respect and trust of General George Washington that provided the Marquis the opportunity to distinguish himself successfully leading an independent command during the Virginia Campaign of 1781, and participation in the climatic Yorktown Victory at the end of the year.
Unfortunately, Lafayette's idealism that was so suited to the American fight for Independence was not able to master the complexities of the French Revolution and subsequent political turmoil that followed in his native country at the end of the eighteenth and very early nineteenth centuries. History respectively recognizes Lafayette's brave attempts to serve his own nation, but it was in the American struggle where he uniquely won his ‘glory'.
Mr. Leepson did not ‘idealize' Lafayette – pointing out moments when the marquis exhibited some vanity and naivete. However, Lafayette's idealism was consistent and frequently tested by many trials. Lafayette's historical fame has grown as the marquis' idealism inspired him to champion values that sparked the struggles of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. These values of democratic representative government, individual freedom, religious toleration and eradication of slavery are now recognized fundamentals in most of the modern Western Civilization.
Marc Leepson is a historian, journalist, and author of seven books, including Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership from the Idealist General. A former staff writer for Congressional Quarterly in Washington, D.C., his work has appeared in many magazines and newspapers, including Civil War Times, America's Civil War, Vietnam, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Baltimore Sun, the Chicago Tribune, and USA Today. He lives in Middleburg, Virginia.
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3 November 2010, "Braddock's March." The program was presented by Mr.Thomas E. Crocker
who described the highlights and offered his assessment of the ill-starred expedition led by the British Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock in 1755. The basis for Mr. Crocker's talk was his research leading to the recent publication of his book Braddock's March: How the Man Sent to Seize a Continent Changed American History
Mr. Crocker began his talk by explaining that General Braddock was sent by the British government with the largest army in North America up to that time. This was in response to counter a series of French successes to establish their claims in the disputed Ohio Valley following the 3 July 1754 expulsion of British colonial forces from ‘Fort Necessity' – a briefly erected open stockade commanded by the Virginia militia colonel George Washington. That engagement was one of the first battles of the ‘French and Indian War', that within a year merged into the global Seven Years' War.
General Braddock came to North America with 2,000 British Regulars in March 1755. In June, General Braddock, accompanied by Colonel Washington met with representatives from the British colonies in Alexandria, Virginia, to plan an ambitious campaign to capture French held Fort Duquesne . This was part of a larger strategic British offensive to seize Fort Niagara, Crown Point and Nova Scotia. It is surprising that such a command was awarded to Braddock, whose high rank was achieved largely through patronage and family connections; he had never served in combat – as no other high ranking officers willing to take the job. Braddock appeared to show some awareness of his shortcomings in selecting Washington as his aide. The two seemed to have developed a close friendship though Braddock remained dismissive of any suggestions to respect some of the unique challenges presented in North American warfare – particularly in the wilderness contending with Indian tactics as well as the need to control a large, stretched out column of troops. Conditions were made worse by the approaching rainy season and the unreliable support of various separate colonies. In May 1755, the expedition began from Alexandria on its nearly 250-mile trek, heroically cutting through dense wilderness, fording rivers, and scaling mountains, while hauling heavy artillery across the Appalachian Mountains. As it developed Braddock plunged it into the wilderness with barely adequate supplies, inaccurate maps and little up-to-date intelligence on his French and Indian foes.
The climatic moment of the expedition was the battle ‘Battle of the Monongahela', also known as the ‘Battle of the Wilderness', that occurred on 9 July 1755. It was not so much an ambush as a ‘meeting engagement'. The French and Indians [Native Americans] were not waiting for the British, but rather advancing to meet them encamped in the vicinity of the old Fort Necessity [still to the east of where the battle occurred]. Meanwhile Braddock was pushing his advance with the intent of being able to besiege Fort Duquesne [still a good distance to the west]. The unplanned engagement threw the British leadership off guard. Their inexperienced troops and commander suffered under the frustrating withering snipping of the French – and especially Indians who were adapt at taking advantage of concealment in the woods. Enduring heavy casualties and harried by multi directional attacks the British column was thrown in disarray. The French and Indians took to the high ground, while the British column remained confined to the trail. Confusion compounded the problem. When, Braddock was mortarly wounded Washington took control and directed a reasonably controlled retreat.
Mr. Crocker is an attorney with a Washington, D.C. firm. Reviews of his book have praised his thorough research and frest writing style
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1 September 2010 , "John Barry: An American Hero in the Age of Sail." The program was presented by Mr. Tim McGrath
who gave a summary review of the amazing early American naval leader and subject of his 2009 published book of the same title. Mr. McGrath described the many impressive accomplishments of John Barry that would challenge most fictional naval hero narratives. Barry was still a young boy when he was able to escape his father's fate as a poor, Catholic farmer in British ruled Ireland. A family connection allowed him to become a ship's cabin boy, from which he rapidly advanced as a seaman and led to his arriving in Philadelphia a decade before the American Revolution. In Philadelphia, Barry found the freedom to practice his religion and the opportunity to advance in the emerging maritime trade opportunities, particularly with the West Indies. Barry's first command came in 1766 aboard the schooner, Barbados
. By 1772, Barry's shipmaster skills drew the attention of Philadelphia's leading mercantile entrepreneurs, such as Robert Morris. Just as the war was beginning, Barry set a record, sailing the farthest-distance in a 24-hour period, commanding his merchant ship the Black Prince
between England and Philadelphia. His wartime record can be anchored between having successfully fought 'the first' and 'last' sea engagements fought by the Continental Navy during the Revolution.
During the winter of 1776-77, Barry volunteered in the Philadelphia militia that joined Washington's army. He served as an aide to general Cadwalader at the Battle of Princeton. Late in 1777, Barry was in the struggle to defend Philadelphia, but had to scuttle his ship, the Effingham as the British seized the city. Commanding a small fleet of small water craft, Barry continued to harass British shipping in the Lower Delaware. Barry was in the struggle to defend Philadelphia, but had to scuttle his ship, the Effingham, as the British seized the city. Commanding a small fleet of barges, Barry continued to harass British shipping in the Lower Delaware. On 8 March 1778, Barry led this "fleet" to surprise and capture an armed schooner and two transports on the Delaware. The action yielded needed supplies for the Continental Army and elicited a written letter (12 March 1778) of commendation from General Washington.
Barry was assigned the frigate Raleigh in May 1778. In September of that year, Barry led his ship in a long, running battle against the British frigate Unicorn and the ship-of-the-line Experiment. The encounter took place near Maine's Penobscot Bay. Barry attempted to burn his severely damaged ship to prevent British capture. Unfortunately, a traitorous American midshipman of English ancestry prevented the destruction of the Raleigh and the complete escape of all hands. Barry managed to lead two-thirds of his crew to safety. However, the Continental Navy's court of inquiry praised Barry's "spirited and gallant behavior" during the ordeal. The episode re-enforced Barry's reputation as a commander concerned for the welfare of his crew and determined to fight to the end. As Congress had no ship to give him, Barry entered the service of his adopted State, Pennsylvania, as a "privateer" and commanded the privately owned brig Delaware during most of 1779 and early 1780.
In September 1780, the Continental Marine Committee appointed Barry to the command of the frigate Alliance being readied in the port of Boston. The Alliance was the finest vessel built for the Continental Navy. In February 1781, Barry took the Alliance from Boston on a mission to transport important individuals to France, taking several prizes along the way. Barry's returning cruise to America was a little more challenging. A mutiny plot was successfully foiled, and a heavily laden supply ship the Alliance was escorting drifted away from the formation during a gale, and was eventually seized by the British. Before reaching the West Indies, Barry engaged two British armed cruisers at the same time, and seized them both after an exchange of broadsides.
The Alliance proved its mettle on 28 May 1781 in engaging on two British sloops, Atlanta and Trespassy. . Unfortunately the becalmed weather allowed the smaller British ships to man their sweeps to deliver close powerful discharges that damaged the Alliance's rigging. Barry directed a relentless defense from the quarterdeck until wounded, and was taken below deck for medical care. The struggle increased in intensity: the Alliance's colors were shot away, but a new flag was quickly raised again. Fortunately a gust of wind arose, filling the Alliance's sails. The battered Alliance swung about firing its 12-pound cannons with decisive effect. After two successful broadsides, both the Atlanta and the Trepassey struck their colors. The one surviving British captain appeared on the deck of the Alliance for the customary surrender ceremony. Barry received and returned the British officer's sword, stating: "I return it to you, Sir. You have merited it, and your King ought to give you a better ship. Here is my cabin, at your service. Use it as your own." In early June 1781, the wounded Barry brought Alliance into Boston. The ship's shattered masts, sails and rigging needed extensive overhaul.
Barry's final battle of the Revolution was on 10 March 1783, as he was returning from Havana aboard the Alliance, escorting the Duc de Lauzon, a transport carrying Spanish silver dollars destined for the Continental Congress. Off Cape Canaveral, the Alliance fell in with the British frigate, Sybil. After almost an hour exchange of gunfire between the two ships, the British vessel sheared off.
After the War for Independence and the dissolution of the Continental Navy, Barry re-entered the maritime trade. Between the years 1787-89, Barry helped to open commerce with China and the Orient while captaining the merchant ship, Asia. In the 1790s, the Navy was revived as a permanent entity in response to Barbary Pirate depredations on American merchantmen and strained relations with France brought about by perceived American support for Britain in a renewed Anglo-French war. In February, 1797, President Washington commissioned Barry to lead the a new navy. Barry supervised the construction of the first frigates built under the Naval Act of 27 March 1794. This included his own forty-four gun frigate the USS United States, which was to serve as his flagship when launched in May 1797. Holding a courtesy title of Commodore, Barry commanded the American navy during the undeclared naval ‘Quasi War' with France (1798-1800), during which he personally captured several French merchantmen and privateers. Barry finished his active career as commander of the United States Naval Station in the West Indies at Guadeloupe, bringing the USS United States into port on 6 March 1801. He remained head of the Navy until his death on 13 September 1803; and was buried in Philadelphia's Old St. Mary's Churchyard.
Many naval historians believe that Commodore Barry deserves to be called 'Father of the American Navy'. John Barry was a mentor for many
future heroes of the country's professional naval officer corps — like Stephen Decatur, Richard Somers, and Charles Stewart, who would distinguish themselves in the Barbary Wars (1801–1805 and 1815) and the War of 1812 with Britain. Mr. McGrath explained that Barry was a man of action who, unfortunately, left a minimal paper trail for future historians and biographers. Whereas, the eloquent, prolific and unabashedly self-promoting letter writer John Paul Jones has more easily been made the subject of biographies published in modern times.
Tim McGrath is an executive who lives outside of Philadelphia. An avid sailor, he has been published in Naval History magazine. More on his book can be viewed at the publisher's website:
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5 May 2010, "Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War." The program was presented by Michael Kranish
who discussed the background in his writing his critically acclaimed and recently published book Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War
As a visiting fellow at Monticello's Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies in 2008, Mr. Kranish became interested in examining Jefferson much as a reporter of today would approach understanding a modern president.
As a reporter who covers the White House, Mr. Kranish reasoned that presidents are often defined by how they perform during their most challenging times. Such experiences usually influence these individuals in their later years when they become leaders of the Nation. Staying for a period at Monticello made it easy to see Jefferson's dramatic challenge occurring in 1781, when Benedict Arnold led a British force to invade Virginia, of which Jefferson had just been made governor.
Certain facts surfaced that stirred Mr. Kranish's investigative reporter's instincts and curiosity. For example, earlier in the war Jefferson had praised Arnold's conduct. Also, a British prisoner of war, William Phillips, who had once been in Charlottesville [as part of the Army of the Convention] and had even been entertained by Jefferson at Monticello, was part of Arnold force as a general officer. Mr. Kranish found little in the narrative histories that explained why and how this climactic moment evolved in Virginia in 1781, and he wanted to understand more on how the revolution developed in Virginia and how Jefferson interacted not only with the British adversaries, but in dealing with serious confrontations with fellow patriot Virginians like Patrick Henry. To find new insights, Mr. Kranish compiled a list of ships commanded by Arnold during the invasion. Using ship logs, he obtained names of some lower ranking officers in the British force. Some of these documents provided descriptions of the invasion that have never been published. One Hessian officer's diary -- not discovered until after World War II -- conveys a contrary view to that reported by Arnold of the joyous reactions expressed by the residents of Portsmouth when pledging their oath of loyalty to the king. Most all historical accounts clearly describe Jefferson as an ineffectual leader in attempting to deal with the British invasion. In part, this was due to Jefferson's lack of interest in military matters, his preconceived idealism about citizen militias, and his aversion to strong executive powers. Such perceptions were significantly altered when Jefferson became President of the United States many years later. While Jefferson may have been inept in directing military and naval defenses in 1781, he was not, as some have charged, a coward. His letters and memorandum book clearly record how he rode for days around Richmond trying to organize resistance while many other officials fled. There is adequate evidence that Jefferson was deeply affected by the danger posed to his family, taking them to different hiding places as the British advanced.
Mr. Kranish lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, and is a Washington correspondent for the Boston Globe, and is the co-author of John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography.
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3 March 2010, "The True Story of a Citizen-Soldier Who fought from Quebec to Yorktown." The program was presented by Robert A. Mayers,
who gave an interesting talk as to what motivated him to write his recently published book The War Man
; and highlighted his discoveries about the American Revolution as experience by the common soldier. The book's central subject – Corporal John Allison, a soldier who served in New York regiments of the Continental Army for the entire eight years of the American Revolution – provides a rare opportunity to see the events from the perspective of the simple man-in-the-ranks. While researching his family history, Mr. Mayers became aware that John Allison was his ancestor. Drawing upon family oral tradition, our speaker delved into the usual archival sources, such as retirement pension applications, military unit records and journals of contemporaries. From his research, Mr. Mayers reconstructed the "War Man's" life of campaigning from the Canadian freezing wilderness, through the battle of Fort Montgomery and the Sullivan-Clinton campaign against the Iroquois, to the bitter winter at Morristown, and the climatic American victory at Yorktown. During his eight-year military career, John Allison survived numerous skirmishes and battles. He was promoted to the rank of corporal before returning home a local hero.
Mr. Mayer shared some of his observations. Particularly disturbing was the lack of training and equipment provided the Continental troops in 1776, and during much of the early years of the war. Many officers left their units during the severe winter encampments, leaving the common soldiers – many of whom had no alternative but to remain. Mr. Mayer described the Jockey Hollow encampment, near Morristown, during the hard winter of 1779-1780 as particularly trying. Besides the severe winter storms and inadequate food supplies, the Continental Army was disintegrating as many soldiers – who were not otherwise dying or were too sick to leave – were surprised to find that those who had enlisted in early 1777 "for three years, or the duration of the war," as had John Allison, were not free of their service obligation in 1780. Continental troops, such as John Allison, were shocked to discover that the Continental Congress emphasized the enlistment terms as requiring the men to remain "for the duration of the war." Massive desertions occurred over this issue, but Allison was among those who did not wish to invite disgrace in deserting. Rather, Mr Mayer was surprised to discover a letter his ancestor had written, dated 16 April 1780, to the "To his Excellency Genl Washington Commander and Chief of the United States of North America." While there is no evidence that the letter was answered, we know that it did not change policy. Corporal Allison did go on to participate in the attack on the British Redoubt 10 during the 1781 siege of Yorktown. He completed his service at New Windsor, and was furloughed home in April 1783 as the troops of the Continental army disbanded.
Bob Mayers is an active member of ten historical societies in the areas of the country where this history took place. He is a frequent speaker and contributor to society publications. A previous work on his family's history spans 600 years and was accepted by local and global reference library collections in America and England. He is a graduate of Rutgers University. Mr. Mayers served as a combat officer in the Navy and Marine Corps. His military experience provided him with a special perspective to appreciate the many challenges faced by his ancestor in the American Continental Army.
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4 November 2009, "Music as a Reflection of the American Revolutionary Era." The program was presented by Dr. David Hildebrand, who discussed and performed selected patriotic songs, ballads, marches and dance tunes known by officers, soldiers, and civilians during the American War for Independence.
Dr. Hildebrand addressed both the formal and less refined aspects of the era's music. His presentation focused on the prevalent practice of parody, while also touching upon related issues of social class, geography, and the symbolic power of tunes like "Yankee Doodle" and "The British Grenadiers." Rather than overview the presentation here, it is suggested that one visit Dr. Hildebrand's essay "What was Colonial or "Early American" Music?" posted at
David, together with his wife Ginger, specializes in researching, recording, and performing early American music. Since 1980 the two have presented concerts and educational programs throughout the country for museums, historical societies, public schools, and universities. Mount Vernon, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Styriarte Festival (in Graz, Austria) are among their past sponsors. David holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America, and he earned his Master's at George Washington University and Bachelor's at Dickinson College. He consults and lectures widely in addition to finishing a book on music in Maryland for the Johns Hopkins University Press. Each spring David teaches a graduate course on the early history of American music at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore.
The Hildebrands provided soundtrack materials and served as period music consultants for several PBS broadcasts, including the six-part series Liberty! – the American Revolution, and the one-hour specials Jefferson: A View from the Mountain and Rediscovering George Washington. David and Ginger have issued six full-length recordings, most notably George Washington: Music for the First President (1998) and Music in the Life of Benjamin Franklin (2006), copies of which will be available the evening of November 4th. In 1999, together with dance historians Kate van Winkle and Robert Keller, the Hildebrands founded The Colonial Music Institute. The speaker invited prospective attendees to explore the "RESOURCES" section of the The Colonial Music Institut's website at www.colonialmusic.org.
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2 September 2009, "Present But Not Accounted For: Women at the Valley Forge Encampment." The program was presented by
Dr. Nancy Loane, historian and author of the recently published book Following the Drum: Women at the Valley Forge Encampment
(April 2009). Her presentation highlighted several observations derived from her research.
Dr. Loane began by dismissing a few myths and misunderstandings about Valley Forge (1777-78). First it is not a valley, but rather a rise in the terrain that served well as a wartime position only a short day's march from the larger enemy army that occupied Philadelphia. It was ‘an encampment' and not a ‘battle', as frequently referenced in many general articles. The associated minor engagements military actions took place some distance from the perimeters of the encampment – skirmishes between foraging parties and reconnaissance forays, such as Lafayette's ‘Barren Hill' maneuvers.
Our speaker described what Valley Forge of 1777-78 was: approximately 2,000 huts, about 14,000 [and probably as low as12,000] soldiers, wagons, horses, cattle – and, yes, about 400 women! The audience was reminded that Valley Forge (1777-78) was not the severest cold and deep snow scene depicted in some popular histories. Such were more descriptive of the later Morristown 1780 winter encampment. Valley Forge of 1777-78 was wet and muddy. Worse, it literally stunk! Sanitation and camp discipline were yet to be adopted into the Continental Army. Food was a struggle in this era before the quartermaster skills of General Greene.
However our speaker wanted to emphasize the women – a topic she focused upon as she researched Martha Washington. Not surprisingly, narrative histories identify several of the officers' wives who traveled hundreds of miles from their comfortable homes to be with their husbands. Certainly we admire Martha Washington, who traveled 10 days from Mount Vernon to be with 'The General' at Valley Forge, as she did for most of the winter encampments during the 8 year war. There was Catharine ['Caty'] Greene, Lucy Knox, and Lady Stirling. There was also Margaret Thomas, wife of ‘Billy' Lee [General Washington's slave man servant.]. Narrative histories rarely address the many nameless women: nurses, washerwomen, seamstresses, cooks and ‘others' – who have often been disparaged as the ‘camp followers'. Some evidence suggests that a Mary Hays – who would later be identified as ‘Molly Pitcher' was at Valley Forge with her husband. Records often referenced the ‘nurses' of soldiers had the same name as did the soldiers – which suggested that they were family members. Besides the wives and mothers of the enlisted soldiers and the volunteers who served in the ranks, there were women who traveled with Washington's 'military family' -- a contingent that essentially supported The General's 'headquarters'. The reality was that many of the women followed the army because they had nowhere else to go.
In the past few years, Dr. Loane has presented over 100 lectures in four states about the women at the Valley Forge encampment. She was a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Speaker for the 2006-2007, has appeared on two documentaries about the Valley Forge encampment, and has published four articles about the women at camp. She focuses on primary research, and has studied more than five hundred diaries, journals, letters, returns, orderly books, records, books and periodicals of the Revolutionary War period. She is a Founding member of the American Revolution Round Table of Philadelphia, a former seasonal Park Ranger at Valley Forge National Historical Park, and a former Associate Professor, Miami-Dade College (Florida). Even if you have heard one of Dr. Loane's talks, one should visit her website at: http://www.womenatvalleyforge.com/
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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