Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Meeting Notes: July 16, 2014

“The Fort Gower Resolves," Jim Glanville

Even though most American history books say nothing about the Fort Gower Resolves, they were an important steppingstone toward Lexington/Concord, the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution in general.

“The Fort Gower Resolves were a collective statement of defense against British authority made by Virginia militia officers,” said historian James Glanville at the July 16 meeting of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond. “In fact some historians say that the Fort Gower Resolves were actually the beginning of the American Revolution. They were published in newspapers throughout the American Colonies and in England, and were even read in the House of Lords.”

The Fort Gower Resolves were made November 5, 1774 on the banks of the Ohio River in what is today Hockinport, Ohio. The Resolves were the final act in what became known as Lord Dunmore’s War, and were also one of the final acts of rebellion by the American Colonies against Great Britain during the tumultuous year of 1774.

1774 started only a few weeks after the Boston Tea Party. After news reached England about the Tea Party, Parliament retaliated by passing several pieces of legislation that were collectively called the Coercive Acts (known in the American Colonies as the Intolerable Acts). One of these acts officially closed the Port of Boston in March 1774.

Boston responded in May by calling for a boycott on the purchase of all British goods. Later that month Virginia’s legislature voted to support Boston’s boycott, and worked with other colonies to plan a meeting in Philadelphia where each American colony (except Georgia) sent delegates to what became known as the First Continental Congress.

During the Summer of 1774 when the talk of boycott was prevalent, Virginia’s royal governor Lord Dunmore made the decision to launch a military campaign against several Indian tribes over a border dispute in what was then known as the Ohio Territory of Virginia. Most of Dunmore’s troops were riflemen from Virginia’s western counties.

Dunmore split his forces into two columns. He marched troops under his command northwestward to what is today Pittsburgh and then down the Ohio River, gathering more and more Virginia riflemen along the way.

A second column of Virginia riflemen to the south of Dunmore’s troops marched westward toward the Ohio River and also gathered riflemen. Under the command of Colonel Andrew Lewis this second column stopped its march at the mouth of the New River (now called the Kanawha River) where it empties into the Ohio River at what is today Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

On October 10, 1774 the Lewis riflemen “got jumped by the Indians,” according to Glanville. After several hours of intense fighting the riflemen won the battle but lost approximately 300 men, including the brother of Andrew Lewis. The Indians lost approximately 500 men and retreated across the Ohio River.

The forces under Dunmore and Lewis pursued the Indians across the Ohio River, and soon forced the Indians to sign a peace treaty which ceded more of their land to Virginia. Shortly thereafter, news reached the Virginia troops about the actions of the First Continental Congress and how the delegates had agreed to a total boycott of British goods throughout the American Colonies. The First Continental Congress had also agreed to express its grievances to King George III and to encourage each colony to create and train its own militia.

While camping at a fort located at the mouth of the Hocking River where it empties into the Ohio River, the Virginia officers on the Dunmore/Lewis expedition wished to express their support for the First Continental Congress but also their loyalty to the British Crown. They did so by drafting what history now knows as the Fort Gower Resolves. 

“The Resolves consisted of two parts plus a very tough preamble,” said Glanville. “Some of the language said these officers of a considerable body of men could live in the woods for weeks without bread or salt, and could march and shoot with the best armies in the world.”

The Fort Gower Resolves expressed support for King George III, “as long as he ruled over a free people”. However, they also expressed the officers’ love of liberty and their willingness to defend American rights; “not in any precipitate, riotous or tumultuous manner, but when regularly called forth by the unanimous voice of our countrymen.” Among the Virginia officers who signed the Resolves were Daniel Morgan, Andrew Lewis, Adam Stephen, William Campbell, Isaac Shelby and George Rogers Clark.

The Fort Gower Resolves were first published on December 22, 1774 in the Virginia Gazette. Two weeks later the Resolves were published again in the Pennsylvania Gazette.

“After that, the Resolves went viral,” said Glanville. “They even appeared in the March 1775 edition of the Gentleman’s Magazine, a publication targeted toward London’s upper-class readers.”

Glanville added that the Resolves and Lord Dunmore’s War probably influenced the revolutionary thoughts of Virginia’s civilian leaders. Some of these civilians were friends of various officers who signed the Resolves, while others simply admired the successful military campaign in the Ohio Territory. According to Glanville, the list of Virginia civilian leaders who were probably influenced by the Fort Gower Resolves and the successful military campaign of the Virginia militia included Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, George Mason and James Madison.

Today the Fort Gower Resolves have generally faded into oblivion. Even in Ohio where they were written, they are little known. In addition, there are no public markers that even identify the location of Fort Gower---just a sign on a private building which identifies the location of the fort. 

James Glanville is a professor emeritus in chemistry at Virginia Tech, and a graduate of the Royal College of Science in London. In recent years as an independent scholar he has studied the history and archeology of Southwest Virginia during the period of the American Revolution.

Glanville dedicated his roundtable presentation to Dr. Harry Ward, retired professor of history at the University of Richmond and founding member of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond.

--Bill Seward

No comments:

Post a Comment