2 May 2007, "Battle of Valcour Island' (11 October 1776)." The program was presented by Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service. Ed Bearss provided a dramatic and detailed description of this unusual naval engagement. The Valcour Island naval action might have been an 'obscure' battle on an inland lake, involving vessels and small gunboats. It accuired special historical interest due to the creative tactics adopted by the famous – and later ‘infamous' – Benedict Arnold. The speaker reviewed the background -- which he had covered in a previous ARRT program (March 2003), wherein Arnold played a dominant role in the failed 1775-76 American attempt to seize Quebec.
Technically, Valcour (1776) was a tactical defeat for the Americans, the campaign acquired strategic significance by delaying a large British naval force and effectively foiled the time table of a serious British invasion of the American colonies in the fall of 1776. The British invasion of the following year led to Burgoyne's Saratoga campaign of 1777. Again, it was Benedict Arnold, who played a critical role in defeating the British in the last battle of that campaign -- a topic Ed covered in the March 2004 ARRT program.
Ed Bearss is one of the nation's most famous battlefield guides, and is the author of many important works on the wars in North America. His previous programs to the ARRT were: "Battle of Cowpens, 1781" (presented April 2002), "Quest for the ‘Fourteenth Colony' – Canada, and Aftermath, 1775-1776" (presented March 2003), "The Advance on Saratoga, 1777" (presented March 2004), and "Washington's Crossing the Delaware (December 1776)" (presented October 2005). Ed is arguably the ARRT's most popular program speaker and a recipient of the ‘ARRT Certificate of Appreciation Award'.
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4 April 2007, "After Yorktown, 1781: the 'War Beyond the Horizon'." The program was presented by Albert D. McJoynt, a military historian and ARRT member. The speaker expressed the need to correct the distorted depiction in most popular American histories that the War for American Independence essentially ended with Yorktown 1781, and that the interval between late 1781 and the signing of a peace treaty in 1783 was merely a period of bickering over peace arrangements. This presentation was to explain the course of the war between Yorktown (October 1781) and the start of serious peace negotiations in September 1782. In so doing, the speaker hoped to provide an appreciation of the impact of the entangling alliances that enabled the Yorktown victory of 1781, but created a Global War that instigated continuing the war in places away from Colonial American shores. The presentation addressed significant events that are not expected to receive attention in the on-going 225th commemoration of the American War for Independence. Interestingly, Washington and Rochambeau, did not see Cornwallis' surrender as the last major action even in North America. Washington tried to persuade de Grasse to remain in North American waters and to assist with a siege of either Charleston or New York. But de Grasse had been deployed in early 1781 to participate primarily in another major theater of the Global War – the Caribbean. Washington appreciated that his great success at Yorktown had depended upon strategic resource allocations decided in European capitals. Washington had to accept that since 1778 Alliance the war had taken on global dimensions, and evolved into ‘entangling alliances' that prevented a simple resolution in just one theater of operation.
After the Yorktown victory, Washington took his American army back north to keep in check the British at New York. Rochambeau's expeditionary force remained in Virginia in readiness for a possible new British offensive in the Southern Department. To plan any further offensive in North America, Washington had to hope for the return of the French fleet in late summer of 1782, when the naval forces moved out of the West Indies during the July-October hurricane season.
While the decisive military outcome of Yorktown 1781 certainly influenced the course of the broader global war, it could only play a secondary role in the broader, Global context of the war following France allying with the Americans in 1778, Spain allying with France in 1779, and The Netherlands becoming a third enemy of Great Britain in late 1780. All nations involved had overseas possessions and interests that became as important wartime objectives as did the initial cause of American Independence.
The British Parliament's February 1782 declaration "to end offensive war' in the Colonies, did not mean granting the Rebels Independence – a prerequisite for peace prescribed in the American-French 1778 Alliance. Rather, the Parliament's action reflected British recognition that they had to give priority to other strategic operational theaters in the expanding Global arena. In turn, this led to major encounters occurring well away from American shores, and conditions which eventually led to serious negotiations for peace.
The speaker admitted that even ‘a quick overview' of the ‘Global War' covering little over a year was challenging for a 45 minute talk. He could only highlight the complex ‘world war' that existed in late 1781 to late1782. Assisted by handouts, the speaker addressed interrelationships of geographically dispersed events of the last years of the war. This was a period when the British Empire had to engage adversaries from the Hudson Bay, in Canada; to the Bay of Bengal, India; and from the North Sea to the northern coast of South America. With the addition of Spain's naval assets, France had sought to force dispersed deployment of the powerful British navy, thus allowing France to take the initiative in geographic regions of its choosing. This strategy allowed for a major offensive in the Caribbean that incidently contributed to the October 1781Yorktown victory, as well as the capture of several British islands in the West Indies from late 1781 to early 1782. Concurrent with the 1781 deployment of the West Indies naval force, the French deployed second naval squadron to the Indian Ocean.
Spain's participation in the war led to an extended siege of Gabraltar (from June 1779 to February 1783). Though Britain sustained Gabraltar with a series of brilliantly led naval relief expeditions, the British lost their Mediterranean position to the east at Minorca (captured by the allies in February 1782). Britain quickly eliminated a Dutch naval threat in the north Sea at the Battle of Dogger Bank (August 1781), and then turned to deal with the French and Spanish naval offensive in the Caribbean. A British squadron won a significant victory at the famous Battle of the Saintes (12 April 1781), wherein de Grasse was captured along with 7 of his 30 battle ships. The speaker emphasized that the effect of this battle is often exaggerated. While the British naval victory did prevent an invasion of Jamaica, France retained its net gain of West Indian islands taken – a distinct advantage during the later peace negotiations. The French naval squadron that went to the Bay of Bengal was led by Admiral Suffren, who contrived with a local Indian Mysore leader to seize two British ports. Suffren prevailed in the last major naval battle of the war on 3 September 1783.
After the fall of the British Prime Minister North, in March 1782, exploratory talks were opened with the American representatives in Paris, in April 1782. In the same month, The Netherlands recognized the US – the second nation to do so after France in 1778. Faced with mounting challenges, Britain allowed conditions of American Independence to be discussed for the first time in September 1782. This led to ‘Provisional Articles' being signed between British and American representatives in November 1782. These, eventually led to the 'Definitive'Peace being signed by all parties in September 1783.
The speaker said that he was not going into the negotiations – the history of which is controversial, convoluted, and required a separate program. Hopefully this presentation's truncated review made the case that in 1782, Great Britain was confronted with dire circumstances from an unwanted ‘global war'. Its renowned navy was stretched thin. England was without allies on the Continent – an essential part of its earlier war strategies when confronting France – and was acquiring more adversaries. Continue efforts to crush the American rebellion was placing parts of the British Empire as risk. Peace had to be obtained at the price of granting Independence to the Rebels.
Mr. McJoynt authors the website for the Expédition Particulière Commemorative Cantonment Society at http://xenophongroup.com/mcjoynt/ep . Webpages at that site provide expanded background on themes mentioned in the 4 April program presentation:
‘West Indies Score Card During the American War for Independence' at http://xenophongroup.com/mcjoynt/WI2.htm ; ‘Strategic Assessment of the Battle of the Saintes (12 April 1782)' at http://xenophongroup.com/mcjoynt/assess01.htm, and ‘Suffren's East India Campaign (1782-1783)' at http://xenophongroup.com/mcjoynt/suffren.htm .
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7 March 2007, "George Walton and Quaker Manumission of Slaves in Revolutionary-Era North Carolina." The program was presented by Dr. Michael J. Crawford , Ph.D, Head of the Early History Branch, Naval Historical Center. Dr. Crawford described the dramatic experience of a South Carolinian Quaker, George Walton, whose life was transformed by a 1772 dream soon after he became a member of The Society of Friends. As Walton described his dream, he was traveling on a dark, narrow path. The path seemed to be up hill and very slippery, and Walton envisioned himself struggling as the ground moved out from under him – as if to capture him. Nearby was a black boy, who appeared to want to help Walton. Such dramatic dreams were taken seriously by The Friends (Quakers), and Walton was compelled to make some sense – seek some meaning of ‘truth' – from his experience. His interpretation was that the ‘slippery ground' was the ‘Devil' who sought to entrap his soul; and the ‘black boy' was ‘Jesus Christ' who sought to save him. In essence, the dream convinced Walton to see equality of all mankind, and to advocate the elimination of slavery in the society about him. The Quakers were very disposed to recognize and to respect such ‘life alternating' inspirational experiences and many in the community of Friends supported this cause. Further, there were already some anti-slavery sympathies among The Friends living in the colonial Carolinas, which were influenced to some extent by stronger positions on the subject held by Quakers from Pennsylvania. However, such beliefs clashed with established social and economic conditions in the South. Initially, Carolina Quaker merchants and large farm owners hesitated. But by 1775, the South Carolina Friends passed a resolution that slave holding was inconsistent with ‘Righteousness'. By 1776, many South Carolina Quakers began freeing their slaves. Unfortunately, the movement met with considerable resistence by the broader community. There were some of the Rebels [Patriots] who sensed that the manumission movement was another British scheme. Newly freed slaves were often seized by militia ‘Night Patrols' seeking ‘escaped slaves', who were then re-sold back into slavery. Particular resistance came from the government of North Carolina, whose laws restricted manumissions. In 1778, the local higher courts supported such retrenchment, and Walton's crusade came to an end. Walton, himself, was eventually expelled from The Friends due to excessive drinking.
Dr. Crawford's topic is addressed in his article, " ‘The Small Black Boy at my right hand is Christ': George Walton and Friends Manumission of Slaves in Revolutionary-Era North Carolina," in The Southern Friend, Journal of the North Carolina Friends Historical Society, Vol. 28, No. 2, 2006, pp. 3-17. He is also working on a book that will be a documentary history of the North Carolina Quaker manumission movement of the era of the American Revolution.
Dr. Crawford, is the editor of two major historical documentary series, Naval Documents of the American Revolution and The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History. He is co-editor (with William S. Dudley) of The Early Republic and the Sea: Essays on the Naval and Maritime History of the Early United States (Brassey's, Inc., 2001). He graduated from Washington University, in St. Louis, and earned a doctorate at Boston University. Dr. Crawford has spoken to the American Revolution Round Table (of District of Columbia) on: ‘A Yankee Mariner: Christopher Prince and the American Revolution' (October 2002); ‘The Barbary Wars' (March 2002); ‘Battle of Valcour Island – 11 October 1776' (May 2001); ‘How the Queen of France Came to America in 1778' (November 1997); ‘Christopher Prince, New England Mariner of the American Revolution' [covering Christopher Prince's early career] (May 1996); ‘Revolution and the Bay: Chesapeake Bay in the American Revolution' (February 1993); ‘The French Naval Campaign of 1778 in North America' (October 1989); ‘The Second Battle of the Virginia Capes' (September 2006).
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7 February 2007, "Northern Virginia in the American Revolution" The program was presented by Michael Cecere, a local educator, reenactor and author of the recently published book: In This Time of Extreme Danger: Northern Virginia in the American Revolution (Heritage Books, 2006). Mr. Cecere did not follow a written script, but occasionally read briefly from a selection of primary accounts as he reviewed, in chronological order, some key moments that highlighted Northern Virginia's contribution to American independence. The troubles began when the British Parliament attempted to recover debt from the French and Indian Wars though levying direct taxes upon commerce in the British North American colonies. The Sugar Act of 1764 and Stamp Act of 1765 were essentially modest in size, but were accompanied by stricter enforcement in tax collection by the British authorities. The net effect was significant loss to the colonial economy which had previously benefitted from various tax avoidance schemes and smuggling of non-British good through the West Indies trade. Some of the most vocal opposition to the taxes began in Massachusetts, but soon spread to the Virginia House of Burgesses, where the British government was viewed as a threat to the tradition of local political autonomy that had been practiced – and taken for granted in the colonies. Mr. Cecere emphasized that the amount of tax was inconsequential; but what alarmed the American colonists was their perception of a dangerous precedent being set, wherein they were being taxed by a political body in which they were not represented. "No taxation without representation" became a rallying phrase among the colonial assemblies.
A prominent citizen of Fairfax County, militia Colonel George Washington stated in a 1765 letter that the Stamp Act was an "unconstitutional method of Taxation" and joined other leading Virginians to call for a boycott of British goods. Patrick Henry proposed forceful resolutions in the Virginia House of Burgesses, insisting that only that General Assembly had the right to levy such taxes on its citizens. This opposition was echoed by the other colonial assemblies and the British repealed the Stamp Act in 1766. However, the British Parliament soon attempted to assert its authority over the colonies with the Declaratory Acts of 1766 and the Townsend Duties of 1767. By 1769, Northern Virginian leaders such as Washington and Mason were advocating more strongly a boycott of British goods. Voluntary ‘Non-Importation Associations' were formed in the colonies which led to a noticeable decline of British imports. The British Parliament was forced to repeal the Townsend Duties in 1770, except for the tax on tea.
In a devious scheme, Parliament attempted to break the boycott on English tea imports by letting the British East India Company sell its taxed tea directly to customers and by pass the American merchants, thereby undercutting the merchant's prices. This challenged the colonists to abide by their principals – either buy cheaper tea that is taxed or pay more for ‘non-taxed' tea. The response was the Boston Tea Party in December 1773, an incident which was not looked upon favorably by many Virginians – destruction of merchants' property was analogous to lawlessness to many who espoused to ‘the rule of law'. On the other hand, the incident incited the British Parliament to respond with a harsh crackdown on Boston with the ‘Intolerable Acts' of 1774 – Massachusetts Assembly was abolished, the colony placed under martial law, Boston harbor was closed. Virginian's House of Burgesses sensed the British actions as a potential threat to all the colonies and attempted to draft resolutions expressing Virginia's support for Boston. Prince William County residents were the first to adopt county resolves in support of Boston. The British governor in Virginia, Lord Dunmore, feared insurrection and dissolved the House of Burgesses in May 1774. Virginian leaders like Washington openly expressed the need for the colonies to unite in resisting "Shackles of Slavery" being put upon them by the British Parliament. Virginians sent like-minded representatives to participate in the First Continental Congress, held in Philadelphia, September 1774. In the same month, a meeting of Fairfax County freeholders launched Virginia's first Independent Militia Company of Volunteers. Mr. Cecere's took the title of his book (In This Time of Extreme Danger...) from the opening lines in the proclamation drafted by George Mason at the 21 September 1774 meeting of Fairfax County freeholders. Colonel George Washington was chosen to command – though he was attending the First Congress in Philadelphia at the time.
1775 was a busy year as the war erupted at various locations throughout the colonies. The speaker touched briefly on the Gunpowder Incident in Williamsburg in April, and the eventual flight of the Royal Governor Dunmore's safety on a British warship. The Second Continental Congress established the Continental Army and elected the Virginian George Washington as Commander in Chief. Virginia experienced its first ‘stand up battle' at Great Bridge near Norfolk. However, the weight of the war was to be waged in the northern theater until the British launch a major ‘Southern Strategy' in 1780. The 12 May 1780 surrender of Charleston to the British resulted in the capture of a significant portion of Virginia Continental Line, thus leaving only Commonwealth militia to confront British military incursions into Virginia starting in early 1781, and to play a part in the dramatic and decisive Allied victory at Yorktown in late 1781.
Mr. Cecere made his point that while many Revolutionary battles were fought outside of the colony, Virginia was in the forefront of taking early action and providing leadership for the rebellion; and would play a similar role in defining the new political system to emerge. Needless to say that there was a lively and extended question and answer period.
Michael Cecere teaches American History at Robert E. Lee High School in Fairfax County and was named the 2005 Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the Virginia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Mr. Cecere also teaches American history at Northern Virginia Community College. He holds a Master of Arts Degree from the University of Akron in History and another in Political Science. An avid Revolutionary and Civil War re-enactor, he participates in numerous living history events throughout the year. Besides his already mentioned latest book, Mr. Cecere has authored the following:
They Behaved Like Soldiers: Captain John Chilton and the Third Virginia Regiment, 1775-1778,
An Officer of Very Extraordinary Merit: Charles Porterfield and the American War for Independence, 1775-1780,
Captain Thomas Posey and the 7th Virginia Regiment, and
They Are Indeed a Very Useful Corps: American Riflemen in the Revolutionary War.
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6 December 2006, "A Hero and A Spy: The Revolutionary War Correspondence of Benedict Arnold" The program was presented by Russell M. Lea, author of a new book published (2006) by Heritage Books of the same title as his program talk.
The speaker made use of PowerPoint visual aids that depicted the memorial scenes that traced the actions that made Arnold a 'hero' in the perceptions of some. But as the speaker reviewed the events he included the aspects that also frustrated the very ambitious Arnold. Before the war, Arnold did not have a very promising experience as a merchant, and management of money was obviously not his strong point. Military action tempted him with teasing promise of fame and better fortune. Though Arnold played a part in the recaptured Fort Ticonderoga from the British (May 1775), the immediate recognition went to Ethan Allen. History is more favorable in recognizing Arnold's resolute leading an American force through the wilderness of Maine to seize British held Quebec (December 1775). However, Arnold was wounded early in the crucial final assault which failed due to many other misfortunes. Probably Arnold's most successful military/naval adventure was conceiving of a scheme to counter a British invasion entering through Lake Champlain, and personally directing the tactical maneuvers in the Valcour channel (October 1776). Though a tactical defeat, Arnold's American flotilla of gunboats effectively stalled the advance of a larger British fleet. The strategic result was the defeat of the British invasion plan. In April 1777, Arnold co-commanded about 500 American militia that repelled about 2000 British regulars raiding Danbury, Connecticut. Probably Arnold's most famous 'heroic' act was at the battle of 'Second Saratoga' (October 1777), where he ignored Gates' orders and personally led an assault that captured a key redoubt in the British defensive entrenchments. The initiative exposed Arnold to his second battle wound in the war, but contributed to the collapse of Burgoyne's offensive and the surrender of his British army. On the other hand, Arnold's conduct in the campaign was viewed by some as insubordinate and made him an 'enemy' of the more politically astute Gates. Arnold had become victim to factionalism in the American officer corps, and was already at odds with Gates when the latter assumed command of the American army that opposed Burgoyne. In fact, resentment in having been passed over in promotions and in not being reimburse for personal expenses had caused Arnold to resign his commission in July 1777, only to quickly ask that his resignation be ignored so as to participate in the campaign to oppose Burgoyne's army. The American Congress could not ignore Arnold's performance at the Battles of Saratoga, and being lauded by General Washington to be his "greatest fighting general," Arnold finally acquired the rank of Maj. Gen, back dated to Feb 1777. Slow to recover from his battle wound, Arnold was posted to command Philadelphia when the city was evacuated by the British in 1778. His position led to several charges of misconduct and drew resentment of his penchant for ostentatious living -- perceived above his known income. Arnold seemed not to worry about his reputation in marrying a young woman of half his age and of a known Troy family. In hind sight, it is known that it was during this period he began secretive contacts with British agents.
It is at this point our speaker described Arnold's attempt to deliver West Point to the British as revealed in the correspondence between Arnold and the British Major John André. Knowing the audience's familiarity with the discovery of Arnold's treason and André's subsequent execution, Mr. Lea related only a few specifics to underscore the high drama of events on the Hudson River in late 1780 that would challenge any fiction writer. However, the speaker and wise historian, had at his disposal the soundest basis for History: written documents contemporary with, and by participants in the events being described. It cannot be properly summarized here. One can only suggest read the book!
Given the often expressed ARRT members' interest in Arnold and his treason, the extensive question and answer period that followed Mr. Lea's talk was not surprising. Of course there was the prominent question: "Why did Arnold do it?" The answer is conjectural and complex, but certainly evidences flaws in Arnold's character. If he had to sum up the answer in simply a word, the speaker offered the reason being Arnold's: "impatience." Arnold was not the only American officer who did not receive immediate awards or accolades for his service and brave deeds. The real ‘heroes' were the ones who sustained themselves by perceiving the larger cause and purpose.
The program closed with a book signing, where Mr. Lea further awarded purchasers of his book on Arnold with copies of his two trivia books on the history of West Point in celebration of the Academy's bicentennial in 2002: W. P. Bicentrivia and The Long Green Line. It was while researching for these these works that Mr. Lea discovered and was attracted to tell the full story about Arnold. Mr. Lea has adapted A Hero and a Spy into a screenplay and is currently producing a biography and a screenplay about John Paul Jones. Learn more at http://www.russlea.com/
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1 November 2006, "The 1780-1781 Spanish Campaigns of the American Revolution, in North America." The program was presented by Mr. Héctor L. Díaz, scholar and author on topics relating to Spain's participation in the American Revolution. Some of the recent ARRT program speakers covering events of the 225th Anniversary of the American Revolution briefly referenced some specific incidents of Spanish contribution in the military campaigns being conducted by the French and Americans in North America. Mr. Díaz's talk put these incidents into perspective.
The speaker briefly explained the reasons for Spain's declaration of war against England in 1779. In part, Spain was motivated to regain some global territories that were lost during the Seven Years War (1756–1763). Spain's open involvement was pushed at the behest of France, as part of a joint Bourbon Family alliance against the common, historic enemy. The speaker noted that Spain did not followed France in formally allying with the rebel American colonies, as the Spanish authorities were concerned with the influence such an insurrection could have on many of Spain's colonies in North America. Nevertheless, Spain's effective assaults on British possessions in North America – for the most part in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Mississippi River, could not help but divert English military and naval resources from quelling the American rebellion.
Most significant in the effectiveness of Spain's offensives against the British, as well as ‘unofficial' but very active logistical support of Washington's American Army, was the initiative of Spain's Governor in Louisiana, General Don Bernardo de Gálvez. He openly enabled military supplies arriving from Europe at the port of New Orleans, to be shipped up the Mississippi and delivered to American forces fighting in the Ohio Valley and in many campaigns in the Northeast US. Arguably, Gálvez's operations against Pensacola, Capital of British West Florida, in March-May 1781 were important influences on the concurrent American-French allied 1781 campaigns addressed in recent ARRT programs.
Mr. Díaz covered in some detail the Spanish Siege of Pensacola. When confronted with some hesitation [lacking adequate nautical maps, some Spanish ships had run aground] from his own Spanish admirals, Gálvez personally led his small ‘militia navy' in to the bay against an array of British coastal defenses. Once ashore the Spanish established siege artillery positions against the British redoubts defending the area. Fearing the imminent arrival of British reinforcements Gálvez pressed a aggressive siege of Fort George, the principal defensive position for Pensacola. However, when reinforcements arrived in early May, it was a Spanish and French fleet with more troops. On 8 May, a fortunate Spanish artillery shot caused the explosion of the powder magazine at the key British redoubt. The extensive damage weakened the British defense, allowed the Spanish to seize critical high ground in the fort's defenses, compelling the British commander to surrender.
During the Q and A period, the ARRT the topic of the rather poor presence of the British navy at Pensacola was further evidence of the French broad naval strategy – as described by Dr Crawford in the September program – to force the large British navy to disperse it resources in a global conflict. During the Spanish offensive against Pensacola, the British were having to prepare for the arrival of a large French fleet in the West Indies and its possible link up with a French military expedition that had already arrived in North America. Of course, such a American-French Allied offensive did develop with the Yorktown Campaign in late summer of 1781.
Mr Díaz also described more direct Spanish involvement in the Yorktown Campaign. Gálvez granted the French admiral de Grasse permission to take all the French combat vessels and French colonial regiments that were assigned to support French-Spanish operations in the West Indies in a temporary deployment to the Chesapeake in August-October 1781. These naval and military assets proved to be essential in the operations that developed. Equally important was the 1,200,000 livres collected in only a few hours from citizens in Havana and given to de Grasse as he was en route to Virginia. This money sustained the French and American forces which found themselves nearly pennyless as they commenced the Yorktown siege. Mr. Díaz provided a valuable handout whith is also posted on the ARRT website:
See: Concise Bibliography and Recommended Web Links on the Spanish Participation in the American Revolution.
Mr. Héctor L. Díaz holds a B.A in Psychology from the University of Puerto Rico, has continued his education with post graduate studies in U.S. and Puerto Rican History and languages. He works as a language analyst in Department of Defense. His interest in the role of Hispanics to American independence began while on a visit to Yorktown Battlefield Park in Virginia in 1985, where he came across a Spanish 18th century flag in one of the displays in the museum. Wondering what it was doing there, he was completely surprised to learn that it "…belonged to the Spanish "Regimiento del Principe" which had taken part, along with other Hispanic forces, in the successful Spanish sieges of Baton Rouge, Mobile and Pensacola during the American Revolution – ne of many other Hispanic contributions to the conflict.
Subsquently, Mr. Díaz has researched and written several articles on the subject. In 1993 Mr. Díaz created a living history group to reenact the soldiers of Spain and her colonies who participated in the war. He also authored a resolution on their accomplishments which was approved by the Maryland Legislature on March 8, 1997. He was the ARRT's featured speaker in February 2004, ‘Spain's Participation in the American Revolution'. At present, he is assisting the recreated "Regimiento Fijo de Puerto Rico" to participate in the 2007 re-enactment of the successful defense of San Juan, Puerto Rico, against the British Attack of 1797.
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4 October 2006, "The Siege of Yorktown: the Decisive Engagement of the American War for
Independence." The program was presented by Glenn F. Williams, a Senior Historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, DC.. The speaker gave an unique presentation that emphasized the distinctive military aspect of the Yorktown Victory – it was a superbly executed, classical Eighteenth-Century siege, like none other in North America during the war. The theme is often ignored in the many social science oriented narratives of the event. Mr. Williams' experience as a military historian enabled him to explain the intricate inter relationships of military engineering and artillery that defined ‘military science' in that era. Referencing the previous ARRT programs, the speaker quickly reviewed the convergence of British and Allied American and French armies at Yorktown in September 1781. There was no surprise that the professional British force under General Cornwallis would have established substantial field fortifications to hold off the attacking allied force and await succor from the large British naval and army forces positioned at New York. Cornwallis had some justification in expecting his field defenses to force the attackers to spend weeks in costly frontal assaults. The presence of a large French naval fleet in the Chesapeake Bay was certainly inconvenient and a serious constraint on the British at York. The significantly larger Allied land forces assembled around York was equally threatening. At some point in early October, Cornwallis was shocked to realize that the Allied land force had both the heavy artillery and professional skills to conduct an aggressive siege according to well-established and formal tactical doctrine practiced in Europe.
With the aid of excellent PowerPoint visuals, Mr Williams described the basics of 18th-century fortification design and outlined the methods for reducing them. He explored the intricacies and the technical expertise required to plan and to construct parallel siege lines, digging zig-zag trenches reenforced with ‘gabions' and ‘fascines' in a systematic approach toward the British defenses. Such counter earthworks permitted the placement of formidable Allied artillery – a significant number of 24 and 18 pounder siege pieces – to be within effective range of British positions.
The siege progressed quickly in stages: Allied forces completed their Investment and Reconnaissance of the British positions by the end of September. In the first few days of October the British were constrained within tight and shrunken lines, as well as denied forage. Allied Pioneers opened the first parallel on 6 October and the first Allied siege guns began firing 9 October. Systematic construction of ‘Saps' advanced toward the British defense lines, and key British Redoubts were seized, enabling the opening of a second parallel on 15 October. Recognizing that the Allied guns were now close enough to breach their defenses, the British attempted and failed to break out on the night of 16 October. Cornwallis agreed to surrender on 18 October.
Thus French-American forces destroyed a British field army, defending a well-fortified position, without resorting to a bloody frontal assault. Although it did not mark the end of hostilities, the Siege of Yorktown proved to be the decisive battle of the War for American Independence.
Glenn F. Williams, an ARRT member, 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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6 September 2006, "The Second Battle of the Virginia Capes." The program was presented by Dr. Michael J. Crawford , Ph.D., Head of the Early History Branch, Naval Historical Center. The speaker described the remarkable naval engagement, begun 5 September 1781, between French and British fleets off the Virginia Capes. Tactically, the engagement's outcome was indecisive, as both fleets were left with some capabilities to continue the struggle. However, strategically this event was arguably the most important naval encounter in the American Revolution. Dr. Crawford explain this engagement as the product of choices between strategic and tactical alternatives that confronted British and French ministers and naval commanders as the two nations engaged in the War for American Independence.
When France inserted itself in the struggle in 1778, allying itself with the American rebels, the war became global in that France and Great Britain had the naval resources to engage in many geographical locations other than North America. To offset their lesser number of fighting ships, the French allied with Spain. As Britain's main focus was ending the rebellion in the north American colonies, France had the strategic option to either concentrate its naval forces at some strategic point, or to engage the British at various global locations. Some believed that the first option might best offset the generally accepted qualitative superiority of British seamanship. The alternative option would be to confront the British at geographically dispersed points, forcing a dispersal of British naval assets, and attempting to catch some British naval forces at a disadvantage. The first option was pursued for a year with an attempt to win control of La Manche [the channel]. French and Spanish naval forces failed to conduct effective allied deployments, and the French then resorted to the second option. In 1781, France deployed fleets to the Indian Ocean and West Indies. The latter, under the Admiral comte de Grasse, was principally assigned to participate in French-Spanish combined operations. However, de Grasse was instructed to venture temporally to North America if there were an opportunity to assist the French and American land forces there. In late summer of 1781 such an opportunity did arise with the presence of a sizable British army presence close to eastern coast of Virginia. With significant help of his Spanish allied leaders in the West Indies, de Grasse was able to take his entire battle fleet, a large contingent of French troops stationed in the West Indies to the Chesapeake Bay at the end of August. On 5 September, a British naval fleet commanded by Admiral Graves arrived and the struggle for control of the Chesapeake Bay began.
When addressing the tactical battle, Dr Crawford returned to the theme of examining options the naval commanders had to decide. Caught in the process of unloading, with many of his ships' crews ashore, De Grasse had to decide to set out to engage the approaching enemy fleet with several under manned ships. But he deemed it more important to be ‘at sea' and in a position to maneuver. The British admiral, having less ships of the line had to determine how to close and engage the French. Dr. Crawford made good use of his PowerPoint graphics to explain the three main options for closing the ‘windward' line of British ships toward the‘leeward' stream of French struggling to egress from the Bay. It appears that the British commander elected the best option, but then miss communicate his intentions to the rest of his fleet by careless flag signals. The failure of part of the British line to close effectively, degraded their original tactical advantage. After an exchange of furious broadside fire for a few hours, the fleets drifted apart and out of cannon range. Mutual battle damage left both sides leery to re-engage without some advantage in position and winds. Essentially it was a tactical stalemate.
The situation was dramatically changed when de Grasse elected first to consider the broader strategic aspects of the campaign. Control of the entrance to Chesapeake was more important than attempting a decisive naval victory. Returning to the Bay on 11 September, de Grasse found anchored the small French naval squadron from Newport. Barras had navigated his small squadron far out to the Atlantic so as to avoid interception by the British, and managed to sneak into the Bay with the vital French siege artillery. Graves may not have fully realized how vulnerable Cornwallis was left, but increased number of French ships left the British admiral little choice other to return to New York for repairs. In the meantime, de Grasse had moved ships in an around the waters of the York River to further confine Cornwallis' army.
Washington and Rochambeau arrived at Williamsburg on 14 September to join Lafayette [commanding a small contingent of Continentals and American militia] and St Simon [commander of French forces that came with de Grasse]. The senior Allied commanders held a war conference on 17 September, aboard de Grasse's flagship, the Ville de Paris. De Grasse deployed ships up the Chesapeake to speed the transport of the Allied armies that had come from New York. By the end of the month, the Allied armies moved from Williamsburg to invest York and conduct the siege.
Dr. Crawford, is the editor of two major historical documentary series, Naval Documents of the American Revolution and The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History. He is co-editor (with William S. Dudley) of The Early Republic and the Sea: Essays on the Naval and Maritime History of the Early United States (Brassey's, Inc., 2001). He graduated from Washington University, in St. Louis, and earned my doctorate at Boston University. Dr. Crawford has spoken to the American Revolution Round Table (of District of Columbia) on: ‘A Yankee Mariner: Christopher Prince and the American Revolution' (October 2002); ‘The Barbary Wars' (March 2002); ‘Battle of Valcour Island – 11 October 1776' (May 2001); ‘How the Queen of France Came to America in 1778' (November 1997); ‘Christopher Prince, New England Mariner of the American Revolution' [covering Christopher Prince's early career] (May 1996); ‘Revolution and the Bay: Chesapeake Bay in the American Revolution' (February 1993); ‘The French Naval Campaign of 1778 in North America' (October 1989).
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3 May 2006, " Flushing the Bird: Nathanael Greene's Early Campaign in the South ." The program was presented by Dr. Dennis M. Conrad, a historian at the Early History Branch, Naval Historical Center. Dr. Conrad described how an essential component of the historic Yorktown campaign – the presence of Cornwallis' British army – came to be in Virginia in late summer of 1781. The speaker described how General Nathanael Greene, the American commander for the Southern Department, essentially ‘flushed' the initially larger and better equipped British army from its strategic focus to subdue the Carolinas, and encouraged a frustrated Cornwallis to seek an alternative objective of removing the Virginia-based supply link for the American Southern army.
The British ‘Southern Strategy' – to take advantage of presumed, latent Loyalist sympathies in the southern colonies and destroy the rebellion in that area – appeared off to a good start in 1780 with the British capture of Charleston (12 May) and the destruction of Gates' American army at Camden (16 August). However, these American military reverses did not stir a rising of loyalists. In fact, Clinton's June 1780 proclamation to the citizens of South Carolina calling for a declaration of allegiance was not well received in the ‘backwoods' areas of the Carolinas. The British ‘Southern Strategy' was dealt a significant reverse with the defeat of Loyalist at the Battle of King's Mountain (SC) on 7 October 1780. The defeat also ended a British ‘invasion' into North Carolina, and forced Cornwallis to draw British troops from Virginia to the support his campaign in the Carolinas.
When Greene assumed command of the American army in the South, in December 1780, his forces lacked the size and material resources to confront directly the British occupation of major communities in the region. Nevertheless, Greene elected to go on the ‘strategic offensive'. With the benefit of able, local militia commanders like Francis Marion and Thomas Sumter, Greene
initiated scattered guerrilla actions that mitigated effective British military response. In a daring break with conventional military principals, Greene divided his army. Events proved Greene's genius in recognizing that such an initiative forced a fragmentation of the British forces and left Cornwallis in doubt as to what were Greene's intentions.
Eventually an event that should have been a mere ‘small action' at Cowpens , SC, (17 Jan 1781) became an embarrassing defeat for a British legion under the famous cavalry leader Tarlton. The incident incited Cornwallis to conduct an aggressive pursuit of the American forces, wherein the British army plunged inland, away from its support base. Cornwallis destroyed much of his supply train to enhance his rate of march in an effort to catch Greene's army in what is known as ‘the Race to the Dan'. The speaker touched upon a few of the noteworthy – but near run – successes of the American rear guard that allowed Greene's army to cross the Dan River into Virginia on 14 Feb 1781. Lacking boats, Cornwallis had to give up his chase, and led his exhausted army back to the southeastern NC, along the Cape Fear River, seeking logistical replenishment brought in land from the sea coast. After a brief rest in VA, Greene led his American force back into NC and continued to keep pressure on Cornwallis by harassing British foraging and to disrupt Loyalist units forming.
In the meantime, Greene's army was benefitting by the addition of more militia, while Cornwallis' force remained hampered from the reduction of its supply wagons sacrificed during the ‘Race to the Dan'. Finally, Greene (now with the larger force) was ready to challenge Cornwallis and the two sides engaged in the vigorously fought battle at Guilford CH, NC, (15 March 1781). It was the speaker's view that Greene, who up to this point had demonstrated remarkable skill in adopting unconventional strategies, resorted to a conservative tactical deployment. The speaker suggested this may have contributed to American's failure to hold the field in spite of the greater casualties inflicted upon the British. However, again, Greene achieve the better strategic outcome. The engagement forced Cornwallis to remove his exhausted and logistically weakened army from any further contests until replenished at Wilmington, NC.
Greene decided to return to SC and conduct largely successful operations against the scattered British posts, many of which were lightly manned. Cornwallis, on the other hand, made the fateful decision, to leave British operations in the Carolinas and Georgia to his second, General Rawdon, and to lead a major effort to conquer Virginia. Cornwallis reasoning appears to have been a mixture of not wanting to admit failure by returning to SC, and by a genuine belief that removing the Rebel's Virginia logistical base was the best way to complete the British conquest of the South. As it turned out, unforseen strategic developments intervened. About five months later, Greene learned that Washington's allied army was descending upon Conrwallis, bottled up at York, VA, between a French fleet and Lafayette's forces. Reportedly, Greene accepted the news with the statement: "We have been beating the bush, and the General has come to catch the bird."
Dr. Conrad served as editor and project director of the Papers of General Nathanael Greene, a thirteen volume documentary series publishing the papers of that great Revolutionary War strategist. Greene's campaigns in the South was the subject of Conrad's doctoral dissertation at Duke University. His previous programs to the ARRT were: ‘Battle of Hobkirk's Hill (25 April 1781)' [presented in May 2004] and ‘Anticipating Newburgh: The Resignation of Nathanael Greene as Quartermaster General' [presented in April 2003].
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5 April 2006, " Allied Strategic Decisions and Actions Leading to the Yorktown Campaign in 1781." The program was presented by Albert D. McJoynt. The speaker identified that he would address two broad areas: the ‘Strategic Political Decisions' that sent the essential resources [a professional French military expedition and a large French naval fleet] to the North American Theater; and then the critical ‘Operational Military and Naval Decisions' made by army and naval commanders which deployed the allied armies in North America and the French fleet in the Carribean to Virginia in 1781. The speaker was particularly motivated to address the topic having observed in several recently published works on Yorktown the promotion of distortions and legends as to how the Yorktown Campaign evolved. There seems to be a prevalence of books by journalists who eagerly report so-called ‘secret' incidents that launched the campaign. One old legend continues to surface that has Washington and Rochambeau devise the Yorktown strategy in May 1781 at a Wethersfield, CT meeting. This Ignores the implausibility of such – as Cornwallis was not known by them to have just entered Virginia, and no one at the time would have envisioned that the British would have a meaningful force at the small tobacco town of York, in Virginia, three months later. However, the temptation to see some presumed deception behind British interception of Washington's post Wethersfield meeting dispatches is too tempting. Another assertion still floating about is that de Grasse was persuaded to go to the Chesapeake by a field grade American officer who made a brief visit aboard the admiral's flag ship – as if such an encounter had any impact over the several dispatches from Rochambeau and the French Minister to the US Congress that all urged that the French fleet head to Virginia.
The speaker traced the strategic foundation for the Yorktown Campaign to the French-American Alliance signed in February 1778. However, the significant shift in the strategic situation in the American theater did not occur until the arrival of a French military expedition in July 1780. This critical event depended upon first the French Foreign Minister, Vergennes, changing the focus of French global strategy from European waters to the Caribbean and North America. By many accounts the American rebellion was not going well and French observers, such as Lafayette and other French volunteers in the American Continental Army, were reporting back to Versailles that the French needed to send troops. The problem was that many of the American leaders were known to have said early in the war that they did not want the presence of French troops – money, arms, military engineers, and naval forces, yes!, but no troops. Vergennes took the initiative and had the newly appointed French Minister to the US, Chevalier de la Luzerne, confront Washington directly in September of 1779. Washington gave his approval then, and in the same month stated so in a letter to Lafayette, who had returned temporally to Paris. Vergennes made his decision in January 1780. On 2 February, the king's council formally approved the deployment of a French auxiliary force to serve under Washington's supreme command. The French units were taken from select and well equipped forces already assembled for the recently cancelled attack on England. Appointing Rochambeau to command the expedition was probably the most important part of Vergennes' decisions. From this point, a fundamental component for what would later take form as ‘the Yorktown Campaign' had been cast.
The next critical strategic decision was also made at Versailles, overseen by Vergennes, and developed in detail by the French ministers of army and navy (Ségur and Castries). In March 1781, a large French fleet under admiral comte de Grasse was to be deployed to the Caribbean, with an auxiliary role to assist the North American allied military operations. Washington and Rochambeau had been alerted to the deployment. When de Grasse arrived at Martinique in late April 1781, he sent word to the allied generals asking how best he might assist. Conducting a series of offensives in the Indies without much interference, de Grasse arrived at Cap François in mid July, where awaited responses from Rochambeau, Washington, and the French Minister Luzerne. While Washington emphasized combined/joint operations against the British at New York, the others suggested the best opportunity may be to assist Lafayette in Virginia. Most of the French knew that their naval commanders were not comfortable in attempting to pass the sand bar at the entrance to the New York Bay. De Grasse announced his decisive decision in a 28 July dispatch that would not be received by Rochambeau and Washington until 14 August. De Grasse's decision was backed with exceptional aggressive action – taking three French regiments from the West Indies and, with the cooperation of the local Spanish authorities – all of his main warships. He arrived at the Chesapeake 30 August.
Outside New York, Washington had begun to doubt his capability to pursue the intended siege against the formidable British defenses; and noted such in his diary on 1 August. He was ready on the 14th of the month to put the last component of the campaign into motion. The allied armies began their move on 25 August overland and by waterways toward a little tobacco port town of York in Virginia, arriving late September 1781. The very important French siege train was taken by the small French naval squadron from Newport, RI, to Virginia. Concurrent with these strategic decisions in France, and operational decisions in the Caribbean and at allied headquarters in New York, were some important operational and tactical decisions made by the British and American forces in the South. These will be addressed in the ARRT's May program.
Mr. McJoynt has spoken previously to the ARRT about the French participation in the American Revolution, and in particular on the French expedition of 1780-83 in America, and authors the website for the Expédition Particulière Commemorative Cantonment Society.
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1 March 2006, " King George's Webbed Feet: British Combined Operations Under Benedict Arnold." The program was presented by Mark L. Hayes, a historian at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C.The speaker reminded the audience that Arnold had established himself a master a joint operations early in the American Revolution when he directed the small Rebel fleet at Valcour Island (October 1776) that effectively disrupted the British invasion from Canada via Lake Champlain. This action demonstrated in his character restless, instinctive aggressiveness, and sense for tactical leadership in operations that seamlessly transcended land and water. He continued to evidence such talent after he changed sides and served as a British Brigadier General in his Virginia Campaign of early 1781.
The speaker described the background for the Virginia campaign. Virginia had escaped the depredations of intensive military operations for 4 years, with only occasional raids by British forces in an attempt to destroy the tobacco stores that the American rebels used to purchase or trade for military supplies from Europe. The almost non existent Virginia state navy and small militia units were severely ill prepared to resist even small British raiding forces, most of which set up operations based temporally at or around Portsmouth near the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay.
The British commander in North America, General Clinton, decided to become more aggressive in 1780 and deployed a force to the Chesapeake in October 1780. However, the British commander in Virginia was not aggressive enough for Clinton, who in late 1780 was trying to find a role for the American traitor Arnold in his new role as a British officer. As no northern position seemed suitable, Clinton acquiesced to Arnold's request to go to Virginia. The speaker pointed to the rather strange command instructions Clinton gave to the two veteran British officers who would serve immediately under Arnold. These lieutenant colonels were expected to monitor Arnold's command decisions, reflecting that the British high command was either leery of his treason or just simply did not trust a colonial to lead British troops. However, Arnold demonstrated exceptional aggressiveness in what would be labeled the ‘James River Campaign.' Richmond's extensive Tobacco warehouse stores were destroyed as well as the poorly manned Virginia ‘navy' ships.
When the French naval squadron, that had deployed as an escort to Rochambeau expedition in 1780, sent a few ships to go against Arnold in the Chesapeake waters, Arnold cleverly withdrew his smaller squadron up the Virginia rivers to where the French ships could not follow. The French later attempted in 1781 to deploy some land forces to conduct a joint offensive – in conjunction with an American land force led by the Marquis de La Fayette in early 1781. The French squadron was repelled at the mouth of the Chesapeake in the 16 March ‘First Battle of the Virginia Capes'. Lafayette was left to contend alone against Arnold, now re enforced in late March by more British forces under the command of the British General Phillips. In May 1781, Cornwallis entered Virginia with a large British force from the Carolinas. At this point, Arnold was withdrawn from the Virginia theater and proceeded to practice his skills in amphibious operations in the northeast, where he earned an even more disreputable reputation in American history.
However, Arnold failed to draw sufficient followers in his unit of American deserters or to gain the respect of fellow British officers. He retired to England in December 1781.
The question and answer period brought out the usual questions attempting to understand the complex nature of Arnold, and to tell of his dismal experience as a failed businessman in London.
Mark L. Hayes is a historian at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C., where he has worked since 1991. He is assistant editor of Naval Documents of the American Revolution and co-author of Sea Raiders of the Continental Navy and The Spanish-American War: Historical Overview and Select Bibliography. He has had chapters published on the American Civil War battles of Port Royal and New Orleans and a chapter on the "Naval Blockade of Cuba During the Spanish-American War." Mr. Hayes has presented several papers on naval topics, including one on "Gustavus Conyngham in Spain" to the ARRT in 1994. In May 2005, he spoke to the ARRT on "Littoral Warfare in the Chesapeake Bay, 1777-1778."
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1 February 2006, "The Portraits of George Washington." Program was presented by Dr. Ellen G. Miles, Curator and Chair of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. This was a rare opportunity for several of the ARRT members who have attempted to study the many images of George Washington – either for art's sake or to determine what this great man looked like. So many painters execute Washington's portraits over a long time, and the differences are evident. Even allowing for Washington aging, there are variances in many facial features in these images that frustrate one seeking to comfortably conceive of his likeness. Oddly, there is a dearth of printed sources to assist the study of this question. Dr. Miles admitted as much when she cited only one real examination of Washington portraits by artists for whom he sat, or was in close contact so to be observed with confidence. The thick and rather rare work, The Life Portraits of Washington and Their Replicas, by John Hill Morgan and Mantle Fielding (Philadelphia, 1931) remains the best study on this topic. Of course the topic of what Washington looked like and the varied depictions would be too lengthy for an hour-long presentation. Though the topic was occasionally touched upon, Dr. Miles chose to review some of the key portraits of Washington, and to address why they were made by particular artists. She covered several sittings to elaborate upon what Washington thought about sitting for his portrait, and his interaction with the artists, in an effort to learn something about Washington, himself. Her talk was effectively supported by 35 mm slides. Her wide knowledge of portraiture of the era contributed considerably to the presentation.
Dr. Miles noted that all the portraits of Washington were commissioned by admirers of the man – no caricatures. There were 25 attributed to be ‘life-portraits' – ones for which the subject actually appeared before the artist and was painted from the living form. From these, the artist who executed the original ‘life-portrait' usually made ‘replicas', and other artists painted ‘copies'. After the Revolution, and particularly after his presidency, reproduction paintings of Washington were popular – especially those by Gilbert Stuart and Charles Wilson Peale.
C. W. Peale did the first known portrait of Washington (in a Virginia colonial militia uniform), from life, at Mount Vernon in Spring of 1772. Reportedly he painted Washington five times from life-sittings, the last sitting in Philadelphia in 1795.
Various members of the Peale family, sons James and Rembrant Peale, made copies from C.W. Peale's originals. Charles Peale Polke, a nephew, made many copies of the portraits by C.W. and James. C.W. Peale had the opportunity to know and paint Washington before, during the war as Commander-in-Chief of the American Armies, and later as the first President of the United States. For this reason, C.W. Peale's works are valued in assessing Washington's facial features over time. However, as the speaker emphasized when comparing the later C.W. Washington portraits to those executed by artist that first observed Washington late in life, Peale's portrayal persisted to convey ‘younger' features of the subject.
Washington became to find sitting to be painted a chore, which may explain that some of the later life portraits are rather formal and ‘stiff'. Gilbert Stuart was evidently frustrated in not getting Washington to conduct a conversation during the sittings. However, Stuart agreed with many that possibly the most accurate portrayal of Washington was by the French sculptor, Jean Antoine Houdon. Houdon traveled from France to Mount Vernon in 1785, where he made a life-mask of Washington's face and took measurements of his body.
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7 December 2005, "The Year of the Hangman: George Washington's Campaign against the Iroquois." Program was presented by Glenn F. Williams, Historical Operations Officer at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, DC. The speaker covered a complex topic covered in his recently published book of the same title. The topic focused on the western frontiers of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia during 1777 – 1779.In 1777, the British Indian Department succeeded in winning the powerful Six Nations of the Iroquois to entered the war on the side of the Crown. In 1778, British Provincial rangers and warriors of their allied Indian nations, principally from the Iroquois Confederacy, conducted a campaign of terror along the frontiers of the new United States. These forces, under the command of leaders like Major John Butler and Chief Joseph Brant, conducted raids to destroy agricultural fields producing crops intended for military supply the American Rebel's magazines. These raids further inhibited recruitment of volunteers for Continental Army and tied down militia The initial dependence on militia reaction and the posting of some Continental units in the territory proved ineffective against the active irregular warfare. In 1779, Washington adopted a new strategy that launched a concentrated campaign spearheaded by some of the best Continental Army units and under the command of some of its ablest military officers to invade the land of the Iroquois with the objective to destroy the Indian villages and waste their cornfields.
Keeping up with the names of the various Indian leaders and grasping the interplay of pre-war political factors is challenging to cover in a single talk. The speaker could only hit briefly opon some of the more famous ‘massacres' – Wyoming Valley (July 1778), Cherry Valley (November 1778), etc. – and leaders of the ‘allied forces serving the British Crown' such as Joseph Brant, John Butler, etc. against James Clinton and John Sullivan, etc. for the Patriots. There is no escaping it, one will ‘have to read the book' to get the full story.
However, the speaker was able to highlight some significant points. Importantly he clarified that where some view the American expeditions of 1779 as failing ‘to conquer' the Indian allies of the British, the limited objective clearly described by Washington was achieved. The goal was to "relieve...[the American] frontiers from the depredations" of the Indian raids. In this the American offensive not only dissuaded many tribes from continuing their aggression against the American frontier settlements but also further burdened the British logistical support of their Indian allies. While not fully removing the threat of pro-British Indian attacks, the American campaign significantly broke the larger unity and power of the Six Nations' coalition, relegating the frontier theater to more manageable proportions by the American militias.
Mr. Williams, a member of the ARRT, spent some of his younger years as a part-time docent aboard USS Constellation. While a History major in college, Mr. Williams held seasonal employment with the National Park Service at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. As an officer in the US Army (1975-1996), he held numerous history-related duties, including teaching military history to college Army ROTC cadets. His immediate post Army experience included assignments as Assistant Curator of the Baltimore Civil War Museum - President Street Station, research Historian with the Army Historical Foundation (both 1998-1999), and a docent at the Babe Ruth Museum (1991-1998). He holds a BA in History from Loyola College of Maryland, a MA in History from University of Maryland Baltimore County, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in History at University of Maryland, College Park.
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2 November 2005, "Dumfries, Virginia and the Weems-Botts Museum." Program was presented by Ms Kimberly Ward, Weems-Botts Museum Administrative Director and Curator. Her slide-assisted presentation gave an overview of the fascinating early history of Dumfries, Virginia. Dumfries happens to be the oldest chartered town in the Commonwealth. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Dumfries was defined by its location where the Quantico Creek entered the Potomac River, and formed an ideal harbor for exporting locally grown tobacco. The town was named after Dumfriesshire, Scotland, the birthplace of John Graham, who built the town's first grist mill in 1690. Over time, the harbor filled in with silt and the community's port lost its commercial edge. For many, Dumfries' history is most known for two colorful personalities who had lived in the same building that is now the ‘Weems-Botts Museum'. These personalities were the Rev. Mason Locke Weems, and attorney Benjamin Botts.
Ms Ward explained that ‘Parson' Mason Locke Weems bought the vestry house of the Quantico Church in 1798, and used the building for his bookstore. Though an educated cleric, Weems made his living as an author and bookseller – undertaking both pursuits with aggressive imagination. Reportedly, he played a fiddle outside his bookstore to attract customers. His most famous authored work was a biography of George Washington. This was the first such work on the Nation's hero. Though, today, many are critical of Weems' injection of legendary accounts in to Washington's early life, the work became very popular and arguably contributed to elevating Washington's status in the early nineteenth century United States.
In 1802, Weems, sold his building to a well known young lawyer, Benjamin Botts. Botts was a rising star in Virginia's legal community. He used the building as his law office, and is best remembered as one of the lead lawyers who successfully defended Aaron Burr during Burr's treason and conspiracy trial.
Between 1869 and 1968, the building was owned as a residence of the Merchant family. In 1975, it was opened as a museum to educate the public on Dumfries and its colorful history. More on the ‘Weems-Botts Museum' can be found at its website http://www.geocities.com/hdvinc
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5 October 2005, "Washington's Crossing the Delaware (December 1776)." Program was presented by Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service. Ed Bearss described Washington's 'master stroke' at a time when the American cause reached a critical point. Following a series of military defeats, driven from New York, forced to retreat through New Jersey, Washington's Continental Army was close to disintegrating. Many enlistments were up as the year of 1776 drew to a close. Taking advantage of the vastly larger and well equipped British army going into winter quarters early, Washington launched a daring maneuver, executed under severe weather conditions. His small force crossed the Delaware River on the night of 25 December, marched through show and sleet to launch a surprise, early morning attack on a Hessian detachment at Trenton, NJ. While some elements of Washington's rather complex scheme failed to go as planned, the attack was a great success. Equally daring was Washington's response to an attempt by a British second force to close in on the smaller American army. Using deception and executing a turning maneuver to strike the enemy in its rear areas, Washington was able to defeat much of the larger British army in detail. The effect was to force the British to retire from most of New Jersey during the first month of 1777. It further lifted American morale from serious depths and allowed the Revolution to continue. Washington's operational maneuver on this occasion is regarded by many as the most creative tactical operation of the war. While many in the audience were familiar with the general campaign, all were rewarded by Ed's masterful oral narrative and insertion of rich detail that makes attending his talks so memorable and rewarding.
Ed Bearss is one of the nation's most famous battlefield guides, and is the author of many important works on the wars in North America. His previous programs to the ARRT were: "Battle of Cowpens, 1781" (presented April 2002), "Quest for the ‘Fourteenth Colony' – Canada, and Aftermath, 1775-1776" (presented March 2003), and "The Advance on Saratoga, 1777" (presented March 2004). Ed is arguably the ARRT's most popular program speaker, and deserving of the ARRT Certificate of Appreciation Award.
On 5 October 2005, Mr. Edwin C. Bearss received the ARRT's Certificate of Appreciation, awarded to individuals who have provided sustained support to the organization.
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7 September 2005, "General George Washington: A Military Life." Program was presented by
Dr. Edward Lengel, a military historian and associate professor at the University of Virginia. His presentation drew upon some themes addressed in his new book on General Washington's military career. The speaker's opening remarks struck a familiar cord with those in the audience who have experienced publishers' preferences for military history. In this case, the publishers wanted ‘drama' and to have the narrative end with a ‘good cavalry charge'. Fortunately Dr. Lengel convinced the publisher that there was enough ‘drama' in Washington's military career for a good book without inventing a climatic cavalry charge in eighteenth-century North America. For his presentation to the ARRT, Dr. Lengel chose to review two significant moments in Washington's military experience.The first was during Washington pre-revolution years, when the young Washington played a major role in making the Colonial Virginia Regiment a militia unit comparable to the best European regulars. The speaker emphasized that, contrary to the impression promoted in so many popular narratives, Washington was not a proponent of irregular tactics employed by frontiersmen in fighting the Native Americans. Washington saw the British defeat in Braddock's ill fated expedition due to the poor discipline of the European units that were hurriedly assembled and deplored to America. The defeat at The Monongahela (1755) did not prove the superiority of irregular warfare, but only reinforced Washington's appreciation for logistical management and troop discipline. These principles guided Washington in establishing the Virginia Regiment as the best trained and equipped provincial unit in the thirteen colonies. This achievement was the result of Washington learning that the commander had to work long and hard in attending to administrative details, to cultivate support of various political factions, and to appreciate the variety in regional jurisdictions among the American colonies. In effect, Washington had been prepared when the American Revolution came in 1776. As soon as he assumed command at Boston,Washington saw his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental army to forge a professional army, and was able to apply much of what he had learned in developing the Virginia Regiment.
The second significant moment occurred during the 1777-78 Valley Forge winter encampment, where Washington won the respect of his troops. Washington achieved this not by pandering to the troops – as was often the course taken by politically appointed commanders of provincial units -- but by demonstrating his commitment to manage the army efficiently, attending to endless administrative details, and sharing the hardships of the winter encampment. General Washington's personal conduct and sacrifice effectively bonded him with his army. The evidence was exhibited at the Battle of Monmonth (1778), when Washington's mere appearance on the field elicited a degree of positive emotional response not heretofore expressed by the Patriot rank and file.
Dr. Lengel is an associate editor at the Papers of George Washington documentary editing project in Charlottesville, VA. He last gave a program to the ARRT on 1 September 1999, when his topic was "The George Washington Papers and the Battle of Brandywine." His most recent book, General George Washington: A Military Life, (Random House, June 2005), takes the measure of Washington's military career from the French and Indian War to the Revolutionary War and the Quasi-War of the late 1790s. The work has received praising reviews in journals and newspapers as well as by members of the ARRT.
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4 May 2005, "Littoral Warfare in the Chesapeake Bay, 1777-1778" Program was presented by Mr. Mark L. Hayes, a historian at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C. The scheduled talk was to be on British joint [land and naval] operations conducted by Benedict Arnold in both Virginia and Connecticut during 1781. However, late developing computer complications ‘sunk' the speaker's prepared Power Point presentation, and Mr Hayes substituted an excellent talk on the general background of such operations as they played an important role in the operations in the Chesapeake Bay during the early and mid phases of the American Revolution. The speaker explained how the British navy was stretched thin during the American Rebellion – especially after France openly joined the conflict. The global scope of naval challenges left limited British naval resources to blockade the American coastline. Even before the French open involvement, cannon, muskets, and other military supplies made it through the blockade to equip the Continental Army. The speaker noted that historians have generally shied away from telling the story of the American inland naval operations as, for the most part, they usually resulted in tactical defeats in contrast to the few spectacular ventures of American seamen engaged in attacking British trade on the open seas. Nevertheless, there is a case to be made for the value of American challenges to the British Navy in the waterways of the Colonies.
Certainly, though a tactical defeat, Arnold's Lake Champlain stand in 1776 managed to frustrate the British strategic scheme, and contributed to the defeat of John Burgoyne's expedition in 1777. Less well known is the Pennsylvania Navy's galleys keeping the British from re-supplying their army in Philadelphia for six weeks in the fall of 1777. However, the struggle in the Chesapeake was of longer duration.
It was well known that exports from the southern colonies were of vital economic importance to the American war effort. The British Navy had the task to keep shipments of rice, indigo, and most of all tobacco from reaching Europe or the West Indies. Destruction of this export trade would go a long way in denying the rebels their needed war materials. Key in this struggle was the entrance to the Chesapeake, the vast twelve-mile opening between Cape Charles and Cape Henry in Virginia. Although under favorable circumstances foreign vessels could slip through, the British were able to maintain a reasonably effective blockade with two or three warships. Other ships of the British squadron – frigates, sloops, and auxiliary vessels – ranged up and down the Bay in search of rebel ships and foreign merchants.
Opposing the British blockade of Chesapeake Bay were the navies and militia of Maryland and Virginia. Of these, it was galleys of the small-sized state navies that were best suited to deal with the British ships. Galleys were deployed in the major rivers to protect merchant vessels from attacks by armed British auxiliaries and boats operating in the Bay. While not intended to directly engage frigates, or even sloops of the Royal Navy, the lower draft galleys constituted a serious threat to British vessels that entered shoal waters.
A close examination of operations during 1777-1778 reveals that the state navies and militias were able to exacerbate the already difficult circumstances facing the British naval forces in the Bay. The British naval commanders in the Chesapeake had the challenges of obtaining provisions for their crews, and maintaining ships that were long overdue shipyard maintenance.
British ships found it necessary to leave their stations at the entrance of the Bay in order to search of fresh water. The American state galleys were relatively effective in discouraging British ships obtaining fresh water and provisions from the sympathetic residents living on Tangier and Watts Island and near the shore in Sommerset County.
The speaker's conclusion was that by limiting the reach of British warships in American waters and interfering with their efforts to obtain fresh provisions and water, the galleys of the Virginia and Maryland navies helped protect the tobacco shipments vital to obtaining loans in France. An examination of the 1777-1778 operations suggests that the states' galleys played a significant role in the new nation's War for Independence.
Mr Hayes' presentation was most informative, and certainly provided excellent background for he returns to give the ARRT his Power Point supported talk on ‘King George's Webbed Feet: British Operations Under Benedict Arnold'. Mr. Hayes has been with the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C. since 1991. He is assistant editor of Naval Documents of the American Revolution and co-author of Sea Raiders of the Continental Navy and The Spanish-American War: Historical Overview and Select Bibliography. He has had chapters published on the "American Civil War battles of Port Royal and New Orleans" and an upcoming chapter on the naval blockade of Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Mr. Hayes has presented several papers on naval topics, including one on ‘Gustavus Conyngham in Spain' to the ARRT in 1994.
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6 April 2005, "The Flag on Prospect Hill: A New Interpretation"
Program was presented by Mr. Peter Ansoff, President of the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) and member of the ARRT. The speaker reviewed the traditional view that when the newly formed Continental Army confronted the British troops in Boston in January 1776, the Americans hoisted the ‘Grand Union', or ‘Great Union' flag atop Prospect Hill. This is reflected in the recent photograph of the monument at the right -- the ‘field' of alternating red and white stripes, the ‘canton' being the ‘Union Flag' [or ‘Union Jack'] used by Britain's military. The 'Union Flag' consisted of the Red cross of St. George with white border superimposed over a white cross of St. Andrew, all on a blue background. The speaker proceeded to explain how his research led to his questioning whether this ‘Grand Union' was the flag at Prospect Hill in 1776.
The speaker stated that such a flag had been raised aboard the Continental navy flagship Alfred on 3 December 1775, in Philadelphia harbor; but is questionable if this new naval ensign had been known to the new Continental Army at Boston only a month later. Relying upon new research, the speaker identified three eyewitness accounts of the flag flown on Prospect Hill in early 1776. One account is George Washington's reference to the flag as ‘the Union Flag'. Washington's letter went on to point out the ironic coincidence that the Continental Army had raised the King's flag just before the arrival of the King's speech to Parliament denouncing the revolt in America. Another report by a British transport captain also calls it ‘the Union Flag'. In neither of these two cases are stripes mentioned and the term ‘Union Flag' was the accepted name for the British national flag at that time. A third witness, a British Lieutenant Carter, described what appears to be two flags: the Union Flag and another beneath it with stripes. The speaker suggested that later, nineteenth-century authors
latched on to Carter's description and jumped to the conclusion that he and the other eyewitnesses were describing the same flag that was raised by the Navy in December.
The speaker illustrated the rather surprising fact that the regular 'Union Flag' was used by the American colonists in the pre-Revolutionary period as a symbol of their resistance to British policies. In some cases, it was modified with the addition of words -- for example, the one raised in Taunton, Massachusetts in October 1774 contained the words ‘LIBERTY' and ‘UNION'. The use of the Union Flag, by the Americans reflected an ambiguity, at the time, in the minds of many rebels that they were fighting as true English subjects for their rights against a despotic parliament, and not to separate from England. This ambiguity continued even after the early clashes at Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill. The flag-raising on Prospect Hill, concurrent with the receipt of the King's speech and the formation of the Continental Army, can be seen symbolically as a final end to the hope that American grievances could be settled within the framework of the British Empire.
The speaker also presented a case that the terms 'Great Union' and 'Grand Union' as names for the union-and-stripes flag were created by later historians and were not used in the 18th century.
Hundreds of books written about the origins of the American flag, and most have simply repeated and embellished the stories introduced by a small group of historians in the mid-nineteenth century. Though well-intentioned, these authors' research was often cursory, and their conclusions were distorted by their own assumptions and attitudes regarding the American flag -- which, in many cases, were very different from those of the founding fathers who created it. Mr. Ansoff's presentation is part of a larger project that is re-examining the primary sources relating to early American flags and the events surrounding their creation and use. His paper on the so-called ‘First Navy Jack' flag received the NAVA's ‘Driver Award' for original contributions to vexillological scholarship, and was published in the NAVA journal, the Raven. Other forthcoming papers in the series will cover the ‘Pine Tree Flag', various ‘Rattlesnake Flags' and the creation of the ‘Stars and Stripes'.
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2 March 2005, "The Charters of Freedom: 'A New World Is at Hand'"
Program was presented by Stacey Bredhoff, Senior Curator at the National Archives, and author of a new book which showcases the Nation's Founding Documents. The particular documents being collectively identified as the 'Charters of Freedom' are the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. As the speaker explained, these 'charters' -- as they have evolved and have interacted with governmental agencies and forums over 200 years -- have defined the rights and freedoms of Americans. Ms Bredhoff briefly surveyed the dramatic events associated with the creation of these key documents. Interestingly, the Declaration of Independence' had only reached the final editing on 4 July 1776, but signing did not begin until much later in the year after copies had been made on parchment. The speaker mentioned some of the philosophies that led to the creation of these historic documents in the 18th century. She then gave a few examples of how some of these 'Charters of Freedom' impacted the course of history in the United States and around the world.
The 'A New World Is at Hand' exhibit opened on Constitution Day in September 2003 after the Rotunda, the museum area in the National Archives building, had been closed since 4 July 2001. The Rotunda underwent renovation and the 'Charters of Freedom' underwent conservation. Before the Rotunda closed, only the first and last pages of the Constitution were on permanent display. Now, all four pages are on permanent display. The 'Charters of Freedom', themselves, are the centerpiece of the exhibit. They are preceded by a display of documents relating to their creataion, and followed by a display of documents telling of their impact. The displayed documents are presented along with images of major figures and events in U.S. history. Combined with quotes from the nation's founders and leaders, these elements reveal the drama, passion, and poignancy of the struggle for freedom that has defined much of U.S. history. The exhibit can be viewed online at: http://www.archives.gov. Go under 'Exhibit Hall', and then under 'The Charters of Freedom'.
Exhibitions Ms Bredhoff has curated include: "The Charters of Freedom—‘A New World Is at Hand'" (2003), "American Originals" (1995-2004), and a series of exhibitions which were awarded the John Wesley Powell Prize by the Society of History in the Federal Government in 1997, and toured the United States from 2001-4. Previous publications include: American Originals: Treasures from the National Archives (2001), Powers of Persuasion: Poster Art from World War II (1994), and Draw! Political Cartoons from Left to Right (1991).
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2 February 2005, "The Tripolitan War."
Program was presented by Richard B. Parker, former U.S. ambassador to Algeria, Lebanon, and Morocco, and author of Uncle Sam in Barbary: A Diplomatic History (2004). The speaker began by reminding the audience that not long after the winning independence, the ‘Big News' in the United States was the nation's first hostage crisis. It was part of an international problem endured by all merchant ships in the Mediterranean and in the waters immediately east of the ‘Pillars of Heracles' as the infamous ‘Barbary pirates' practiced their age-old custom to seize merchant ships of nations not protected by treaties with the various ‘Barbary' states [Algiers, Tunis, Morocco and Tripoli] in North Africa. The practice included not only seizing the cargo as booty, but enslaving the crews to extort ransoms. For years the major European countries protected their ships with treaties and tribute payments to the various Berber coastal states. These North African city ‘states' were remnants of a stronger Turkish empire that since 1659 existed as anarchical republics and lived by plunder.
Over time, the European powers attempted to counter the Barbary corsairs' activities with naval operations, but eventually found it more economical to pay tribute to the North African states rather than finance standing naval presence or to launch suppressive naval and military campaigns in the area. The speaker explained that the Barbary corsairs were not ‘terrorists' in the context of the times. Eighteenth-century corsairs usually had authorization by an established political state. The practice was followed by European and Americans, where the term ‘corsairs' or ‘privateers' were substituted for ‘pirates'.
In the eighteenth century, American merchants ships conducted considerable business in the area. This maritime commerce had been protected by British Treaties before the American Revolution, and for a short time by the French under the 1778-1783 US-French Alliance treaty. However, Independence introduced the new Nation with one of its first serious international challenges, starting with the capture of two US ships off the coast of Portugal in 1785. The speaker introduced the audience to some aspects of the our Nation's response that are often omitted in the brief – almost cliché – descriptions so frequently given in popular media. For example, the initial Nation's response was to pay the tribute.
In the last months of 1793, eleven American ships were seized. The American negotiators were unable to raise the demanded gold to pay the ransom for the crews until the nearly million-dollar ransom was obtained by borrowing from a Jewish moneylender living in Algiers. This money ransomed in 1795, the those captured seamen whom could still be obtained, and had not been sold off to other owners. The speaker noted another exception: an individual who had accepted a high administrative position in the Turkish government.
In the last years of John Adams' administration the US Congress funded the fitting of frigates to engage in a so-called ‘Quasi-War' with France (1797-1801). However, that conflict was quickly resolved by negotiations after a few naval actions. The emerging US naval assets were quickly employed by the next President, Thomas Jefferson in implementing his long held position to engage the Barbary Pirates with force.
In 1801, President Jefferson sent a small ‘punitive expedition' to the Tripolitan theater that managed to partially constrained the corsairs. Tripoli declared war on the United States, but their disorganized fleet retreated as it attempted to passed into the Atlantic when confronted by the newly dispatched American squadron. The Americans cruised the Mediterranean, evacuating American merchantmen and winning several engagements with the corsairs. Later that year, Sweden and some Danish forces joined in the campaign with the Americans. However, destruction of the corsairs remained elusive.
In early, 1802 President Jefferson ordered that the war be pursued with greater vigor, and for a time the Western ‘coalition forces' bombarded Tripoli. US Marines went ashore at Tripoli and contributed small-arms fire to the siege, but the defenders held firm and a significant number of small, fast corsair boats continued to slip through the naval blockade. The Americans sought, but failed to draw the pirates into, decisive naval battle. When Sweden made peace that year, the blockade collapsed
In September 1803, the American commander was replaced by the more aggressive and skillful Captain Edward Preble, accompanied by a subordinate, Stephen Decatur. Both began earning their place in the lore of US Navy history as they performed superbly in a series of actions that continued into early September 1804.
Concurrently, a US Naval agent, William Eaton, led an expedition of a eight US Marines and a band of North Africans overland from Alexandria in an attempt to overthrow the Pasha at Tripoli. What appeared to be an successful joint operation for both Preble and Eaton, was disrupted by the arrival of a replacement US naval commander, Samuel Barron, and Tobias Lear, the US consul general at Algiers. In 1805, Lear concluded a treaty with the Pasha of Tripoli, in which ransom for 300 American prisoners and a reduced tribute was promised to the Pasha. Eaton was forced to abruptly withdraw, leaving his Tripolitan allies stranded. Though criticized in the US, the treaty was approved.
American operations against the Barbary states were temporarily discontinued during the War of 1812 with Britain. The Barbary corsairs took advantage of this intra-Western powers' conflict to increase their activities. With the end of British-American hostilities in 1815, Commodore Stephen Decatur led a squadron of 10 vessels to the Mediterranean. After capturing 2 Algerian warships, he sailed into the harbor of Algiers, where he demanded and received cancellation of all tribute and release of US prisoners without ransom. Similar guarantees were forced from Tunis and Tripoli. This ended the American Barbary Wars.
For Europe, the problem continued until Algiers was conquered by France in 1830.
Ambassador Parker's presentation was made all the more enjoyable by his many references to particular asides: New England cod was in the eighteenth century, and is today, a popular menu item in North Africa; and many of the American participants played distinctive roles in domestic American history.
Amb. Parker has taught at the University of Virginia, Lawrence University, and the John Hopkins University. He was the editor of the Middle East Journal from 1981 to 1987.
ARRT members may recall Dr. Michael J. Crawford's 6 March 2002 talk on how ‘The Barbary Wars' (1801-1715) forced the United States to re-constitute a navy. See separate webpage reviewing ARRT Programs for September 1997 through May 2002.
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No ARRT program was given in January 2005.
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1 December 2004, "Stopping at the Tavern."
Program was presented by Ms Gretchen Bulova, Director of Gadsby's Tavern Museum, in Old Town Alexandria, who gave a very informative and enjoyable PowerPoint presentation on what the eighteenth-century traveler could expect to encounter as at the typical tavern in Alexandria, a rather prospers port town on the Potomac River at the time. Many in the ARRT audience were familiar with ‘Gadsby's' today and had a casual awareness of it playing a role during George Washington's time. A John Wise owned the two-building establishment (a tavern, constructed ca. 1785, and a hotel added in) before it was purchased by the entrepreneurial Englishman John Gadsby in 1796. However, it was Mr. Gadsby that became its most famous tavernkeeper, well known by many of the tavern's famous patrons such as George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. The most memorable events, still commemorated today, were the ‘Birthnight Balls', held in Washngton's honor and attended by George and Martha in 1798 and 1799.
As to everyday happenings at the tavern: there was food (breakfast, dinner, and supper), drink, and often rudimentary over-night lodging. On occasions there was entertainment, and space for group meetings or general socializing. The speaker covered a variety of alcoholic beverages [cider, beer, wine, and rum], coffee, tea, and chocolate. Pork/bacon was a prominent staple along with corn bread. The Potomac allowed the Alexandria tavern to offer oysters. But the tavern scene was a ‘man's world'. Women came only when escorted, and certainly did not use the crowded bedrooms with multiple-occupancy beds. As the speaker explained, women's accommodations were always arrange at a private home. The speaker introduced a wealth of detail on how we are still learning today about the tavern's operations as archaeology and scholarly research continue.
Again, some in the audience were in the the know, but most were surprised to learn that there were actually two ‘Gadsby's' in the area. John Gadsby abruptly departed Alexandria (leaving some owed bills evidently) and went to Baltimore. In 1808, he came back south to set up the successfully ‘Nation's Hotel' in the new capitol – but many merely referred to it as ‘Gadsby's'.
The City of Alexandria has taken over the original building and ‘Gadsby's Tavern' continues to offer an eighteenth-century Virginian ambiance and menu, and includes a museum. Gadsby's still offers entertainment and hosts Washington's annual Birthnight Ball. Its very full agenda can be see at its website at http://www.gadsbystavern.org
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3 November 2004, "Contributions of African-Americans to the winning of American Independence."
Program was presented by Noel B. Poirier who addressed several themes pertaining to the roll of African Americans in the Revolution. His main theme was that the Continental Army was racially integrated, a fact that has been obscured in general popular historiography. Mr. Poirier gave a convincing argument as to why this has been so. Historians have examined the war – in particular the role of African Americans – through nineteenth and twentieth-century ‘prisms' that ‘filtered' out the actual late mid eighteenth-century social conditions as they existed in the North American colonies. The popular trend of history emphasizing the social aspects of slavery and segregation encouraged even military historians to ignore the African Americans' real contributions – as soldiers and as labors during the American Revolution . Only recently have military historians seriously noted the many contemporary journals and eye-witness drawings by European observers that confirm the presence of a significant number of African Americans in the ranks of the Continental Army -- – "America's first integrated force, an integration that would not again prevail until the Cold War Army of the twentieth century."
Some of the first studies to address the role of African Americans in the war focused on British initiatives, which were basically to use the issue of enslaved African Americans as a political weapon. Lord Dunmore's famous emancipation proclamation was directed toward slaves that deserted their Rebel masters, not Loyalists owners. It was an attempt to undermine the Rebels' social institutions.
Initially, in early 1775, the American Rebel leadership was reluctant to accept the enlistment of freed slaves. However, manpower shortages developed in the ranks as a result of decreasing enlistments of European Americans. The northern states were the most active in accepting the negros who signed up – and there was lax attention to questioning their slave status. By 1778, the Continental Army was substantially an integrated force. This is substantiated by a special report conducted by Col. Alexander Scammell, the Continental Army's adjutant general, dated 24 August 1778. By 1779, many of the senior American officers – Alexander Hamilton, Henry Laurens, Lafayette, Benjamin Lincoln, Nathanael Greene – championed the enlistment of African Americans. South Carolina and Georgia were the only states that refused to enlist African Americans.
The speaker addressed the impact after the war. He emphasized that there needs to be more study, but suggested that the temporary increase in the number of post war slave manumissions seemed to show a relationship to what would be the expected life span of African Americans who had served in the war. His suggestion that this could very well have been due to many of the European American veterans developing a sense of ‘brotherhood' with their former comrades-in-arms. He cautioned that such a phenomena did not raise to the level of a broad acceptance of racial equality, and that it could not correct the social and economic conditions of the later eras that encouraged continued slavery in the South and racial segregation in the Nation.
Another main point made by the speaker was that the African Americans' roles in logistical support of the war are often ignored, but as any military historian knows, the logistics are as critical to campaigns and war outcomes as are the maneuvers of units and direct combat actions. The evidence is that African Americans were very active in arms manufacture and transportation functions, as well as serving on naval and privateer ships. Many African Americans, free and enslaved, worked in the publicly operated arms manufactories in states like Virginia. Again, these men and women worked alongside their Euro-American counterparts, in spite of their status as unfree individuals.
Mr. Poirier's presentation was only an overview of his excellent, scholarly article, "The African American Citizen-Soldier and the Continental Army" published in the Army Historian, Fall 2002 issue. Mr. Poirier received his M.A. in Military Studies from American Military University in Charleston, WV and his BA in American History from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana, PA. He has worked for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation since 1992, serving a six-year apprenticeship in the Department of Historic Trades. Mr. Poirier is also a freelance historian, genealogist and author, having written numerous articles in nationally syndicated publications. He is a regular contributor and member of the editorial board of Colonial Williamsburg's Research publication, The Colonial Williamsburg Interpreter. Mr. Poirier's works are cited at his website: http://www.widomaker.com/~npoirier.
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6 October 2004, "Hussars of Lauzun's Legion in the American Revolution."
Program was presented by Dr. Robert A. Selig author of Rochambeau's Cavalry: Lauzun's Legion in Connecticut and several recently researched studies for various State Historical Preservation Offices supporting the 225th Commemoration of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route program of the National Park Service. Lauzun's Legion -- Volontaires étrangers de Lauzun -- consisted of infantry, a light cavaly of 'hussars', and a small artillery company. The Legion was formed quickly in early 1780 so as to be deployed with the French expedition. The speaker explained that France adopted the ‘legion' configuration, composed of irregulars [soldiers committed to limited service] so as to integrate them into the main army structure that was made up of regular [permanent] French regiments. In the eighteenth century, the French created such ‘legions' to expand their armies to meet short term needs of more manpower. With France's increased involvement in ‘overseas' wars, in distant regions from mainland France, legions drew volunteers that included areas outside of metropolitan France. Some ‘legion' troops were raised in overseas areas, but most were volunteers from communities on France's eastern borders, where French cultural traditions were not yet strongly embedded. A large number of the rank and file were German speaking, in addition there were numbers of various various Slavic, Italian and Anglo-Irish volunteers. The term ‘étranger' [literally ‘foreigner'] related more to the basic cultural association – usually non French speaking – of the majority of the rank and file, who were largely French subjects but from regions recently acquired by France. In all cases their officers were French and the units were fully integrated into the French armed forces.
As France formally entered the War of American Independence in 1778, the Volontaires étrangers de la Marine was created. As the name indicated, the organization was under the French navy [marine], and the initial objective was for its employment to be primarily in French colonial territories – West Indies, India, African littoral, etc. The organization originally consisted of eight legions that were soon deployed overseas, except for one that was held as part of a planned force to invade England. In 1780, this latter legion was re designated the Legion de Lauzun, commanded by the battle-experienced Armand Louis de Gontaut- Biron, duc de Lauzun. Its was organized specifically to be part of the French military expedition under the comte de Rochambeau that served in the United States from 1780 to 1783. As there was not enough space aboard the ships when the legion departed France in April 1780, the legion departed without its two fusilier companies, 400 hussars and horses. What arrived at Newport on 11 July 1780 were 250 men of the hussars, the grenadier and chasseur infantry companies, and cannoniers – some 600 men total. Hussars and French officers acquired their horses from American sources. Lauzun's hussars were most noticeable for their Hungarian style uniforms, braggadocio, and unfortunately for their relatively disorderly behavior – the speaker reminded the audience that the term 'hussar' came for a Slavic word for thieves and looters. The hussars performed the usual light cavalry duties: messengers, flank screening, reconnaissance and rapid raids to disrupt the enemy or to obtain loot. The hussars were a unique discipline problem for Rochambeau, whose army is otherwise highly accredited by historians for its exceptional discipline in America. The hussars were generally encamped in remote areas and left unattended by sufficient officers. Their leader, Lauzun, was not the most obedient subordinate. However, he was the 'star player' in the 3 October 1781 'Battle of the Hook' that took place at Gloucester, VA, as part of the Yorktown Siege. Lauzun led a hussar charge that forced the British cavalry under Banastre Tarleton to retreat.
Lauzun's colorful life ended – as with so many to the noblemen officers – at the guillotine 31 December 1793. But the hussars had a longer history. When ‘Lauzun's Legion' was disbanded in June 1783, the mounted units formed the newly created ‘Lauzun's Hussars' and became part of the regular Royal army. With the French Revolution the unit was recast in 1791 as the 6th Hussars, and Lauzun lost his proprietorship. The 6th Hussars disintegrated [desertions to the Austrians being a serious part of the problem] in 1792, and was re-constituted the 5th Hussars. It was dissolved as an active unit in January 1976, and as a reserve unit in December 1992.
Dr. Selig received his Ph.D in history from the Universität Würzburg. He now works and lives in the US. He was Visiting Adjunct Professor of German and History, Hope College, Holland, Michigan. He has held Visiting History Professor positions a various other US and German academic institutions. He is author of many articles in German and American journals, and often published in The Journal of Colonial Williamsburg. His work has established him as a leading scholar on the French Army in North America between 1780 and 1781, and in particular on German-speaking troops who served in the French ranks at the time. His broad field of research and published works are cited in his personal website at http://xenophongroup.com/vita/selig.
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1 September 2004, "Profiling America's Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefields."
Program was presented by Ms Tanya M. Gossett, the Preservation Planner for the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP), National Park Service (NPS). Her talk explained the on going 'Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Historic Preservation Study' which identified and surveyed 246 battlefields, of which 168 were related to the American Revolution. The study's goals are to identify the battlefield sites and evaluate the status of their preservation. The purpose is to establish a base for further examination for more or expanded preservation initiatives. The study, so far, identified almost 40% of the Revolution battlefields as in good or fair condition, but nearly 60% are in a poor or hopelessly lost state. In a few cases, documentation and research is lacking, making fieldwork impossible at this time. It did not surprise many of the ARRT audience to learn that the American Revolution and 1812 wars were only recently given by Congress the attention that for 10 years had addressed only the Civil War battlefields. In November 2003, the House of Representatives (H.R. 3498) proposed to amend the American Battlefield Protection Act of 1996 by establishing a battlefield acquisition grant program for Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields. If approved, this bill will permit using the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) monies for these earlier wars as is already done for Civil War battlefield acquisitions. More on the ABPP can be learned from its main website, a link to which is given below.
The speaker, Ms Gossett, holds degrees in History and Historic Preservation Planning from James Madison University and Cornell University respectively. Formerly with the National Register of Historic Places, she has worked for the ABPP since 1995. Ms. Gossett is the principal author of the draft report for the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Historic Preservation Study.
This Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Historic Preservation Study covered in a ABPP website at: http://www2.cr.nps.gov/abpp/rev1812.htm
The broader mission and work of the ABPP are covered on their main website at: http://www2.cr.nps.gov/abpp/index.htm
The main ARRT page has links to special data lists of battlefields that are maintained by the ABPP.
At the 1 September 2004 program meeting, a member of the Executive Committee of the American Revolution Round Table (ARRT) of the District of Columbia, Colonel Henry G. Morgan (USA, Ret), presented a special plaque in the name of the ARRT -- a "Citation of Exceptional Contribution" awarded to Colonel George R. Allin, Jr. (USA, Ret) for his faithful service over many years as the ARRT Program Meeting Attendance Chairman.