Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Next Meeting: July 19, 2017

"Lord Dunmore's War: The Last Conflict in America's Colonial Era," Glenn Williams

Meetings are held in the Westhampton Room, Heilman Dining Center (dining hall--building 34 on the campus map), University of Richmond, at 6:00 p.m. with dinner available for purchase beginning at 5:00 p.m.

Due to the University of Richmond being out of regular session, we will revert to our summer schedule: The meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. with dinner still available for purchase in the Dining Center beginning at 5:00 p.m. Please plan on joining us!

University of Richmond campus map:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Meeting Notes: May 17, 2017

"General Howe and Mrs. Loring: The Myth vs. Reality Behind An Infamous Revolutionary War Affair," Sean Heuvel

Immortalized by a clever poem that portrayed her as Sir William Howe’s Philadelphia mistress, the real Elizabeth Loring lived a far less glamorous life than that of the “blond bombshell” as she is often depicted.

“The poem was probably propaganda and its source is highly suspect,” said historian Sean Heuvel at the May 17, 2017 meeting of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond. “During the Winter of 1777-1778 she was in Philadelphia with Howe and something probably happened, but the story was much more complicated.”

The poem, called The Battle of the Kegs, was written by Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. It goes as follows:

Sir William he,
snug as a flea,
Lay all this time a snoring,
Nor dreamed of harm
as he lay warm,
In bed with Mrs. Loring.

Another critic of Elizabeth Loring’s was a loyalist judge named Thomas Jones who wrote approximately 10 years after the American Revolution about how the alleged affair between Howe and Mrs. Loring had cost Great Britain the war. He portrayed Mrs. Loring as a Cleopatra figure and wrote, “As Cleopatra of old lost Mark Antony the world, so did this illustrious courtesan lose Sir William Howe the honour, the laurels, and the glory, of putting an end to one of the most obstinate rebellions that ever existed.”

Heuvel questions Jones’ accusations.

“As a loyalist who was on the losing side of the American Revolution, he was venting lots of frustration,”said Heuvel. “It’s also believed that he loved to drink and to gamble. There aren’t enough primary sources for historians to tell what really happened between Howe and Mrs. Loring but the loyalist judge’s accusations are probably myths.”  

What do today’s historians know about Elizabeth Loring? According to Heuvel, she lived a very difficult life.

Elizabeth Lloyd Loring was from Long Island, NY and married Joshua Loring, Jr. who was from Jamaica Plain (modern-day Roxbury, MA). His father served as an admiral in the British navy during the French and Indian War, and got wounded on Lake Ontario.

Joshua Loring, Jr. served in the British army as a lieutenant on the staff of Colonel William Howe in Savannah, GA. Loring left the British army in 1769 for health reasons after getting sick from tropical diseases.

When the American Revolution began, the Loring Family remained loyal to the British Crown. During the Siege of Boston when the Americans captured Jamaica Plain, the Lorings fled to nearby Boston. In fact the Lorings had to flee without their twin children who were left with a nurse.

Wearing a disguise, Elizabeth Loring went back through enemy lines to see her children. One of her twins had died but the other one was later reunited with his parents in Boston per an agreement approved by Thomas Gage and George Washington. 

During the Lorings’ stay in Boston, Sir William Howe recognized his former staff officer and met Elizabeth Loring for the first time. After Howe’s army left Boston and captured New York City, Howe put Joshua Loring, Jr. in charge of local prisons and prison ships moored in New York Harbor.

“There are two versions as to how Loring treated American POWs,” said Heuvel. “One story is how Loring was very cruel and stole from the prisoners. The other version says that he did the best he could under the circumstances.”

In 1777 when Howe launched his controversial Philadelphia Campaign, Mrs. Loring left her husband in New York City and sailed with Howe and his troops. Historians do not know the details as to why Mrs. Loring left New York City and her husband to sail with Howe’s troops, but Heuvel believes she was attracted to the power and security which Howe could provide.

Following a series of battles near Philadelphia, the American army abandoned the city and then the British army occupied it through the Winter of 1777-78. It was during this time period when Francis Hopkinson wrote what would become his famous poem about Howe and Mrs. Loring.

During the Spring of 1778, Sir Henry Clinton replaced Howe as the British commander in Philadelphia and marched his army back to New York City. Howe returned to Great Britain and Mrs. Loring returned to New York City.

When the war ended, Great Britain became the Lorings’ new home. They, like many other loyalists, were not widely accepted by the British natives.

In 1789 Joshua Loring, Jr. died at the age of 44 after several years of declining health. He left Elizabeth with four children and virtually no money. She applied for a pension because her husband had served in the British army, and received one.

Her oldest surviving son, John Wentworth Loring, joined the British navy in order to support his mother and siblings. He worked his way up the ranks and became a ship captain who earned a large amount of prize money by capturing enemy vessels. 

“John Wentworth Loring won all sorts of British honors so apparently the British Crown didn’t seem upset with his mother and her rumored affair with Howe,” said Heuvel. “John Wentworth’s siblings also did very well.”

As for Elizabeth Loring’s life in Great Britain, not much is known about her. Today’s historians have only two letters written by her---one from when she was a child and the other which she wrote to her adult children.

“In the letter to her children she worried about keeping up with the Jones,” said Heuvel.

Sean Heuvel is an assistant professor in the Department of Leadership and American Studies at Christopher Newport University. He served as the founding president of the American Revolution Round Table of Williamsburg/Yorktown.

His interests include the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War II, military leadership and higher education history. He is the author or co-author of the following books:

1.The Revolutionary War Memoirs of Major General William Heath

2. Life After J.E.B. Stuart: The Memoirs of His Granddaughter, Marrow Stuart Smith

3. Remembering Virginia’s Confederates (Images of America)

4. The College of William and Mary in the Civil War

5. Christopher Newport University (Campus History)

Prior to the speaker’s presentation the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond discussed the nominations which members submitted to President Bill Welsch regarding this year’s ARRT-Richmond Preservation Partner. Four non-profit organizations were nominated. President Welsch said that each dues-paying member of ARRT-Richmond will get the opportunity sometime in July to vote online for one of the four nominees.

--Bill Seward

Saturday, May 6, 2017

2017 Harry M. Ward Book Prize Nominees

Robert F. Smith, Manufacturing Independence: Industrial Innovation and the American Revolution (Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, 2016).

Caroline Cox, Boy Soldiers of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

Stephen Howard Browne, The Ides of War: George Washington and the Newburgh Crisis (Columbia, SC: University of South Caroline Press, 2016).

Nathaniel Philbrick, Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution (New York: Viking, 2016).

Larrie D. Ferreiro, Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It (New York: Knopf, 2016).

Derek W. Beck, Igniting the American Revolution: The War before Independence, 1775-1776 (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2016).

Alan Taylor, American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016).

Donald J. Gara, The Queen’s American Rangers (Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, 2015).

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Meeting Notes: March 15, 2017

"Officer Resignations in the Continental Army: General Washington's Constant Headache," Bill Ferrarro

“I quit.”

Although Continental army officers phrased their resignation requests to George Washington in much more diplomatic language, many officers submitted their resignations throughout the war for a variety of reasons.

“This was an important subject that took lots of Washington’s time, said William M. Ferrarro at the March 15, 2017 meeting of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond. “In fact of all the correspondence which we have today on Washington’s wartime writings, approximately 10% of it dealt with the subject of officers who complained about their rank and/or their wish to resign their commissions from the Continental army.”

Ferrarro is the managing editor of the Washington Papers at the University of Virginia, and has studied many of the officer resignation requests submitted to Washington. At the Round Table meeting he read quotes from various resignation letters. 

In addition to complaints about their rank and lack of promotion, Continental officers typically cited family finances and the need to take care of family affairs as reasons to resign their commissions. 

“Washington frequently implored Congress to pay more money to keep from losing good officers but Congress had no taxing authority,” said Ferrarro. “As for trying to discourage officers from going home, Washington tried to set a personal example by never taking a furlough.”

Subordinate officers also frequently cited the deaths of close family members as a reason for resigning their commissions. These deaths ranged from those of loved-ones killed in combat to those of elderly parents who died back home.  

When a Continental officer submitted his resignation, it had to be approved by Washington. Before an approval was granted, Washington’s staff checked to make sure that the resigning officer didn’t owe the Continental army any money. Each resigning officer was also expected to leave behind all military equipment owned by the army. 

Typically an officer resigning his commission would ask his superior officer to write a letter to Washington on behalf of the officer, or to write a letter accompanying the officer’s resignation letter to Washington. Usually Washington replied to routine resignation letters by writing an outline, and then giving his outline to one of his staff officers such as James McHenry to write the official army reply. 

“Washington was much more engaged in his correspondence to Congress than he was to resignation requests submitted by most officers,” said Ferrarro. “He was an incredible administrator.” 

Resignation requests typically slowed during the summer months and increased during the winter ones. Since many enlisted men served on a calendar-year basis, the loss of officers during winter months deprived the Continental army of experienced officers to train newly-enlisted recruits.

Washington was particularly concerned with the loss of officers from the states of Massachusetts and Virginia. Massachusetts furnished the most regiments in the Continental army, and of course Virginia was Washington’s home state.

Among the highest ranking officers who submitted their resignations were Generals Philip Schuyler and Artemas Ward.

“Schuyler went back and forth on whether to submit his resignation,” said Ferrarro. “Washington liked Schuyler but Congress didn’t. As for Ward, Washington wasn’t happy with him and was glad to get rid of him.”

Prior to the speaker’s presentation the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond discussed the following topics:

1. President Bill Welsch urged the membership to submit via email their nominations of organizations to serve as the 2017 ARRT-Richmond Preservation Partner. He asked to receive all nominations prior to the next ARRT-Richmond meeting on May 17, 2017. 

2. Several members announced various upcoming classes, seminars and programs that relate to the American Revolution. Please see the ARRT-Richmond website for details on these events.  

 --Bill Seward

Friday, March 24, 2017

Next Meeting: May 17, 2017

"General Howe and Mrs. Loring: The Myth vs. Reality Behind An Infamous Revolutionary War Affair," Sean Heuvel

Meetings are held in the Westhampton Room, Heilman Dining Center (dining hall--building 34 on the campus map), University of Richmond, at 6:00 p.m. with dinner available for purchase beginning at 5:00 p.m.

Due to the University of Richmond being out of session, we will revert to our summer schedule: The meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. with dinner still available for purchase in the Dining Center beginning at 5:00 p.m. Please plan on joining us!

University of Richmond campus map:

Monday, January 30, 2017

Meeting Notes: January 18, 2017

"Money is the Sinews of War: George Washington, Money, and the Revolutionary War," Ed Lengel

Known as “First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen”, George Washington was also a very savvy businessman and one of America’s first great entrepreneurs.

“These are some aspects of his life and career that are not well known,” said historian Edward G. Lengel at the January 18, 2017 meeting of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond. “I got to thinking about Washington’s relationship with money and with business, and it opened up his thoughts and tactics as a military and a political leader.”

Lengel is the chief historian for the White House Historical Association and a former professor at the University of Virginia, where he also served as the director of the Washington Papers documentary editing project. He is also the author of the recently published book entitled First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His and the Nation’s Prosperity.

According to Lengel, the Washington Family had a knack for successful business practices from its earliest days in North America. John Washington, George’s great-grandfather, came to Virginia in 1656 for what he thought was a routine business trip.

“John Washington traveled to Virginia for the purpose of loading tobacco and going back to England, but a storm sank his ship in the Potomac River and he lost all of his cargo,” said Lengel. “He decided to stay and to settle down. He grew tobacco, got married and invested in land before dying at age 46”.

Lawrence Washington, John’s oldest son, inherited the bulk of his father’s estate. He died at age 38.

Augustine Washington, Lawrence’s younger son and George’s father, was a talented businessman who greatly expanded his agricultural landholdings and also invested in ironworks. His second wife and George’s mother was Mary Ball Washington.

“She often gets a bum rap by historians for being cranky and not very smart, based mainly on disagreements which she and George had later in life,” said Lengel. “However she and her husband shared the same vision. She prepared George for real life by teaching him about math, geometry, accounting and debt. George Washington always hated debt.”

Mary Ball Washington was also a good business manager according to Lengel. She managed the household staff and slaves on a daily basis, and ran her husband’s businesses whenever he traveled to England.

George Washington’s first job as a teenager was working as a surveyor. According to Lengel, it was an ideal job because he worked with prominent people such as Lord Thomas Fairfax, one of the richest people in the American Colonies.

“Not only did the Fairfax Family open all sorts of social contacts for Washington, but he gained considerable experience with land and how to reach down and look at dirt. Is it good soil or bad soil? He also learned how investing in good land could make people very prosperous,” said Lengel.

During the French & Indian War, Washington became a combat veteran---which affected his understanding of life according to Lengel.

“At the Battle of the Monongahela he leads the remaining troops in Braddock’s army off the field and past the cries of the severely wounded,” said Lengel. “It impacts him on what war does to people, to communities and to a nation. It teaches him the importance of making sure that troops get paid, get fed and get good care in general.”

On January 6, 1759 Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, the wealthiest widow in Virginia.

“It’s preposterous to say that Washington married her simply for her money,” said Lengel. “Their marriage was a partnership. She chose him as much as he chose her.” 

George and Martha Washington settled into their Mount Vernon home where he made a business decision that would have a major impact on the rest of his life. He switched from growing mainly tobacco to growing wheat.

Under the British/Colonial system of trade, tobacco farmers got paid by British merchants in the form of credits toward the purchase of British goods. They did not receive hard currency for their tobacco sales, which often increased Colonial debt. Wheat was not subject to these trade regulations. Farmers could sell their wheat by themselves domestically or sell overseas via British and/or American merchants. Wheat was also easier on the soil and much less labor-intensive, which allowed Washington’s surplus staff and slaves to make the transition into new jobs requiring higher skills than tobacco farming.

As tensions increased between the American Colonies and Great Britain, Washington strongly supported economic protest measures such as a boycott of British goods in order to free America from the British/Colonial debt and credit system. For Washington, independence from Great Britain was primarily about economic freedom rather than political freedom. He viewed economic freedom as a means to allow Americans to strive toward long-term prosperity, both in terms of agriculture and industry.

During the American Revolution, Washington favored a strong continental army over the use of militia units. But why? According to Lengel, Washington understood what war meant as a result of his own experiences during the French & Indian War.

“Civilians are full of words and fine phrases about the will to win, and about fighting for homes and families,” said Lengel. “Washington looked at war from the standpoint of a veteran. He knew that money was the sinews of war, and how war can divide people. War creates hardships and suffering, and therefore it requires innovation, production, organization and a strong government to keep people united.”

According to Lengel, Washington realized that people who felt committed to the American Cause might one day give up the Cause if their families were starving. In fact Lengel said this situation came close several times during the war. 

Washington tried to keep American civilians on the side of his army by punishing any soldiers who plundered them, and by purchasing goods from civilians at local markets rather than seizing their goods. Washington also deferred to civilian authority via the Continental Congress and did his best to keep the legislature informed on his army’s operations. He understood the importance of keeping civilians on his side as an extension of the war effort.

After the war Washington saw the weakness in the Articles of Confederation and the danger in the virtual elimination of a national army and navy. He also recognized the importance of innovation during the Industrial Revolution and how it helped the world. Since the British were generally regarded as the world’s leading innovators during this time period, Washington recognized the need for America to emulate them.

“When Washington became president, he said his first and only aim was to establish the national prosperity,” said Lengel. “He wasn’t a Hamilton puppet. Washington had an economic strategy to establish national credit, a stable currency and a level playing field to protect commerce.”

Part of Washington’s economic strategy was maintaining peace with other countries. Despite cries from prominent Americans for war with Great Britain over the issue of the impressment of American sailors, Washington’s administration negotiated the Jay Treaty in 1795 which reduced tensions between the two countries and led to increased trade between them.

“Washington had wisdom and a deep understanding of America---and what we could become,” summarized Lengel.  

Edward G. Lengel has authored several books, primarily on the American Revolution and World War I time periods. His works include the following:

1. General George Washington: A Military Life

2. Inventing George Washington: America’s Founder in Myth and Memory

3. Thunder and Flames: Americans in the Crucible of Combat, 1917-1918

4. The New Nation: The Creation of the United States in Paintings and Eyewitness Accounts (co-author)

5. To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918

6. The Irish through British Eyes: Perceptions of Ireland in the Famine Era 

Prior to the speaker’s presentation the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond discussed the following topics:

1. Treasurer Art Ritter reported that the ARRT-Richmond treasury did very well in 2016 and is growing, thanks to a record-number of members and good participation by members and guests during the ARRT raffles held at each meeting.

2. President Bill Welsch noted that the Book Award Committee and the Preservation Committee are looking for suggestions as to any books which the Book Award Committee should consider for the 2017 award, and for any organizations which the Preservation Committee should consider as the 2017 preservation partner. Suggestions can be submitted to Book Award Chairman Mark Lender, Preservation Chairman Bert Dunkerly or President Welsch.

3. Several other announcements were made by members and guests regarding upcoming classes, conferences and events that relate to the American Revolution. Please read about these activities elsewhere on the ARRT-Richmond website.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Next Meeting: March 15, 2017

"Officer Resignations in the Continental Army: General Washington's Constant Headache," Bill Ferrarro

Meetings are held in the Westhampton Room, Heilman Dining Center (dining hall--building 34 on the campus map), University of Richmond, at 6:30 p.m. with dinner available for purchase beginning at 5:30 p.m. It is not necessary that you purchase dinner in order to attend the meeting.

University of Richmond campus map:

Revolutionary War Artifacts Crop Up in Gloucester Point Dig