Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Call for Nominations for Our 2018 Preservation Partner

Please submit your nomination(s) for our 2018 Preservation Partner to Bill Welsch at or bring them with you to our May 16, 2018 meeting (the deadline).

As a reminder, five dollars of each membership goes towards our preservation effort.

Next Meeting: May 16, 2018

"Benedict Arnold: Guilty or Innocent? by John Millar

For this meeting only, we will meet in the Tyler Haynes Commons (number 4 on the linked campus map; just down the hill from the dining hall where we usually meet). The dining hall will be closed so dinner will not be available and the meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. 

The meeting will be held in the Haynes Room on the first floor of the Tyler Haynes Commons.

University of Richmond campus map:

Meeting Notes: March 28, 2018

"Mary Ball Washington, the Mother of George Washington," Michelle L. Hamilton

During an age when most young widows either remarried or moved into a home with family members, the mother of George Washington chose a much more independent lifestyle of living on her own for approximately 46 years until her death.

“Mary Ball Washington decides not to remarry at age 35 in order to protect her assets,” said historian Michelle L. Hamilton at the March 28, 2018 meeting of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond. “She becomes the head of household and collects the rent for her children on the property that they inherit from their father.”

Hamilton is the author of the recently published book entitled Mary Ball Washington: The Mother of George Washington. Hamilton also serves as the manager of the Mary Washington House Museum in Fredericksburg, VA.

When Augustine Washington (Mary’s husband) died on April 12, 1743, he left her with five children under the age of 12. In addition she lost approximately 60% of her income upon Augustine’s death when his two sons from a previous marriage inherited their father’s two largest properties.

By not remarrying, Mary prevented her family assets and those of her five children (including George) from coming under the control of a future husband. Instead of remarrying she acted as trustee for all of her young children until they became old enough to inherit property.

Mary Ball Washington had a history of independent living long before the death of her husband Augustine. She was the only child of Joseph Ball and Mary Johnson Ball, a widow with two children from a previous marriage. Mary was born in 1708 and just three years later her father died, leaving her an inheritance of slaves, cattle and 400 acres.

Mary’s mother remarried shortly thereafter and then her stepfather died, leaving 600 acres to Mary’s half-brother John Johnson and a plantation in Northumberland County called Cherry Point to her half-sister Elizabeth Johnson. When Mary was 13 years old, both her mother and her half-brother died, leaving the 600 acres to Mary. She then went to live with her half-sister Elizabeth at Cherry Point. Thus as a young teenage orphan, Mary Ball owned slaves, cattle and a total of 1,000 acres from two inheritances.

George Eskridge, a lawyer and close friend of the family, served as Mary’s legal guardian and managed her land holdings. In a few years he would also introduce Mary to his good friend named Augustine Washington, who had recently become a widower. The two of them married on March 6, 1731. She was age 23 and he was 36 years old.

Augustine and Mary made their home on his plantation at Pope’s Creek in Westmoreland County. On February 22, 1732 Mary gave birth to their first child named George. One year later she gave birth to a daughter named Betty, and the following year to a son named Samuel.

In 1735 Augustine and Mary moved their growing family to his plantation at Little Hunting Creek, which would later be renamed Mount Vernon. The family lived there for three years, where Mary gave birth in 1736 to a son named John Augustine and in 1738 to a son named Charles. Later in 1738 the family moved once again to a plantation called Ferry Farm, across from Fredericksburg.

In 1739 Mary gave birth to her last child named Mildred who died from a childhood disease 16 months later. Tragedy continued for Mary at Ferry Farm when in 1743 her husband Augustine died from a stomach disease after a very short illness.

“When her husband died, Mary got back the 1,000 acres of her property that she brought into the marriage,” said Hamilton. “Her sons and daughters got everything else.”

Mary and her young children continued to live at Ferry Farm. She struggled financially to rear her children and as a result, she couldn’t afford to send George and his younger brothers to school in England as Augustine had done for his two sons from his first marriage. Instead George and his younger brothers were tutored by the Reverend James Marye in Fredericksburg.

After all of her children reached adulthood and moved away, Mary continued to exercise her dower rights and remained at Ferry Farm. In fact she continued to live on the plantation until the early 1770s when she was in her 60s. However during the Winter of 1771 she became very ill with influenza during horrible weather,  and became virtually isolated from her family, doctors and close friends who lived across the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg.

She recovered but the isolation during her serious illness convinced her to accept her family’s pleas to move across the river into Fredericksburg. In 1772 her son George sold Ferry Farm and used some of the proceeds to purchase a 1 1/2-story cottage for Mary which was adjacent to the Kenmore plantation where Mary’s daughter Betty and her son-in-law Fielding Lewis lived.

After the American Revolution began in April 1775, Mary’s son George became the commander of the Continental Army and left Virginia. Mary and George didn’t see each other between 1775-1784, and exchanged very few letters.

“Communication between George Washington and his family in Fredericksburg was very difficult during the war,” said Hamilton.

The war created hardships for Mary and the rest of her Fredericksburg family. A smallpox epidemic resulted in a very poor harvest in 1778, which caused both a food and cash shortage for Mary. This forced her to write the man serving as George’s overseer at Mount Vernon for assistance. In 1780 the government requisitioned a large quantity of Mary’s bacon in order to feed Continental soldiers.

During April 1781, the Marquis de Lafayette visited Mary in Fredericksburg while he was passing through for military purposes. They had a very pleasant visit, and for years afterward Lafayette made it a point in letters he wrote to Washington to extend his best wishes to Mary.

When General Charles Cornwallis moved his British army into Central Virginia and fairly close to Fredericksburg, the local militia commander ordered Mary and the rest of the Washington family to evacuate to a safer locality. Mary, her daughter Betty and son-in-law Fielding Lewis moved to the Lewis’ home in Frederick County, VA (near Winchester).

Fielding Lewis was terminally ill with a lung disease, and the family’s financial conditions sharply worsened. As a result, Mary attempted to receive additional income by applying to the Virginia legislature for a military pension because her late husband Augustine had served in the Virginia militia.

“Mary’s pension application didn’t sit well with her son George,” said Hamilton. “It looked as if her son couldn’t take care of his mother.”

Washington responded by writing a lengthy letter to legislator Benjamin Harrison, asking the General Assembly to stop or to deny Mary’s request for a pension.

When Washington and his army marched through Fredericksburg in September 1781 on their way to Yorktown, Mary was still living in the Winchester area and therefore missed seeing her oldest son. In 1782 Mary returned to her cottage in Fredericksburg. Washington returned to Mount Vernon in 1784, and the two of them saw each other for several years on a regular basis.

However by the late 1780s Mary’s health steadily declined as a result of breast cancer. On March 8, 1789 Washington visited his mother for the last time. In a few weeks he would travel to New York City to become the first president of the United States.

On August 25, 1789 Mary Ball Washington lost her battle with breast cancer and died at her cottage in Fredericksburg.

Michelle L. Hamilton is the author or editor of three books in addition to Mary Ball Washington: The Mother of George Washington. They are as follows:

1. I Would Still Be Drowned In Tears: Spiritualism In Abraham Lincoln’s White House

2. My Heart Is In The Cause: The Civil War Diary Of James Meyers---Hospital Steward 45th Pennsylvania 1863-1865

3. Manners During The Civil War: American Etiquette Or Customs Adopted By The Polite Society Throughout The United States

Prior to the speaker’s presentation ARRT-Richmond President Bill Welsch asked the audience to start thinking about nominations for ARRT-Richmond’s 2018 Preservation Partner. Each member may submit nominations via email to President Welsch or may do so in person at the May 16 membership meeting.

--Bill Seward

Friday, April 6, 2018

2017 Harry M. Ward Book Prize Presentation

The 2017 Harry M. Ward Book Prize was presented to Nathaniel Philbrick for his book Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution. The presentation was made at the Seventh Annual Symposium on the American Revolution in Williamsburg, VA on March 24, 2018.

(l. to r.) Mark Lender, Chairman of the ARRT-Richmond Book Prize Committee, Nathaniel Philbrick, and Bill Welsch, President of ARRT-Richmond

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

March 21 Meeting Postponed

Tomorrow night's meeting is postponed until next Wednesday, March 28, 2018.

Everything else will remain the same – speaker, time, and place. Michelle Hamilton will be speaking on Mary Ball Washington.  

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Speaker Change: March 21, 2018 Meeting

Due to a family situation, Bob Smith, our March speaker, had to cancel. Bruce Venter, our intrepid vice president for programs, was able to recruit Michelle Hamilton to fill in. She will be speaking on “Mary Ball Washington – Mother of George Washington,” from her new book.

Hamilton's book, published in November of last year, details Mary Ball Washington's life from 1708 to 1789. Please plan to attend this enlightening presentation!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Next Meeting: March 21, 2018

"Manufacturing Independence: Industrial Innovation in the American Revolution," Robert Smith

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.

University of Richmond campus map:

Meeting Notes: January 24, 2018

"Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty," John Kukla

“Give me liberty or give me death” is the last line of Patrick Henry’s most famous speech, but how many of the words which we quote today are what he actually said?

“I think we are pretty close on what we remember about the Liberty or Death speech,” said historian Jon Kukla at the January 24, 2018 meeting of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond. Kukla is the author of a recently published biography that is entitled Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty. 

The text of Henry’s speech first appeared in 1817---42 years after he delivered the speech and 18 years after he died. William Wirt, who would later become the longest-serving U.S. attorney general in American history, published what he believed was the accurate speech text in his biography on Henry. While conducting his research for the book, Wirt corresponded with men who were present in Richmond at St. John’s Episcopal Church when Henry delivered his famous speech at the Second Virginia Convention.  

While Wirt was successful in obtaining considerable information about the speech, only one person actually wrote down what he perceived as the entire text for Wirt. This was Judge St. George Tucker, whose recollections of the specific text were used nearly verbatim by Wirt in his biography on Henry. 

“It should be noted that people during the 18th Century listened intently to philosophical debates, and typically didn’t take notes for publication,” said Kukla. “In fact we see this in Parliament’s debates where it was against the law to publish their debates. “I’m concerned that folks in the 18th Century remembered far more from speeches than people do today because we have too many distractions.”

Patrick Henry was born on May 29, 1736 in Hanover County, Virginia. He first came to prominence as an American revolutionary in December 1763 when he argued a legal case in Hanover County that is known as the Parsons’ Cause. 

Since hard currency was scarce in Colonial Virginia, the Anglican clergymen were paid in tobacco which was typically worth two pence per pound. However several droughts during the 1750s caused a shortage of tobacco and sharp price increases of as much as 3-4 times its normal market value. As a result, the Virginia legislature passed the Two-Penny Acts, which allowed debts that were normally paid to clergy with tobacco to be paid at the flat rate of two pence per pound.

Several Anglican clergymen petitioned London’s Board of Trade to overrule the actions of the Virginia legislature, which the Board of Trade did. As a result of the Board’s actions, several Virginia clergymen sued in Virginia’s courts for the market value of the tobacco which exceeded the two pence per pound price that they had already received under the Two-Penny Acts. One of these clergymen was the Reverend James Maury. 

Maury had sued successfully in Hanover County Court, and on December 1, 1763 the case resumed for the purpose of having a jury to award damages. Henry served as the attorney for Maury’s parish vestry against Maury. 

“Basically Patrick Henry argued that the structure of the British Empire called for its colonies to be governed by their elected legislatures and to express allegiance to the King, while the British people who elected Parliament were subject to its laws and their allegiance to the King.”

The jury awarded Maury the minimum amount allowed under Virginia law for damages, which was one penny. Henry’s name became widely known and as a result, both his law practice and overall popularity flourished. In May 1765 he was elected to the Virginia legislature as a representative from Louisa County. 

Shortly after becoming a Virginia legislator, Henry and his legislative colleagues learned of Parliament’s passage of the Stamp Act. During the debate by the legislature as to how Virginia should react to this controversial tax, Henry repeated many of his arguments that he first raised during the Parsons’ Cause. Henry argued that Parliament had no taxing authority over Virginia and the other colonies, and that British colonists had the same rights and privileges as British citizens living within the mother country. 

During the debate, Henry also warned King George III as to what can happen to monarchs and dictators when he said, “Tarquin and Caesar each had his Brutus, Charles the First had his Cromwell and George the Third ..........”. At that point Speaker John Robinson and others shouted, “Treason, treason!” Henry paused and then replied, “.......... and George the Third may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it.”

The Virginia legislature passed five of the seven resolutions proposed by Henry to protest the Stamp Act. These actions put Virginia in front of Colonial America’s opposition to this unpopular tax, and spread Henry’s name throughout the other American colonies.

The Road to the American Revolution would continue for another 10 years when Henry would utter his immortal Liberty or Death words on March 20, 1775. During the early months of the war, Henry briefly served in two military capacities as a commander of county and state militia units. 

On June 29, 1776 Patrick Henry was elected to a one-year term as Virginia’s first post-colonial governor. In 1777 and 1778 he was re-elected to two additional one-year terms and then stepped down per Virginia’s term limitations at that time. In 1784-1786 he served for two additional one-year terms.

As a wartime governor, Henry was a very strong supporter of George Washington’s Continental Army. He helped to recruit new troops for Washington, and supplied Washington’s army with badly needed food, clothing and ammunition. Henry also remained loyal to Washington during a time in the war when several prominent political and military leaders wanted to replace Washington as the overall army commander with Horatio Gates.

“They had a really strong friendship,” said Kukla. “Henry remained loyal to Washington, and Washington always remembered it. They remained good friends even when they were on different sides of political issues such as the U.S. Constitution.”

After Washington was elected president he offered Henry several prominent positions in the new government such as secretary of state, ambassador to Spain and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Henry declined the offers for health reasons and family matters.

Finally in early 1799 when Washington was a private citizen, he was able to persuade Henry to stand for election one more time for a seat in the Virginia legislature. Henry agreed and was elected as a delegate from Charlotte County, but he died before serving on June 6, 1799 at his Red Hill home.

What should we think of Patrick Henry today? Certainly he was a great orator, a dedicated public servant and a very talented trial lawyer but Kukla said that Henry was much more. 

“He was involved in all aspects of the American Revolution,” said Kukla. “I rather like the guy because I like his candor. He looked at things pretty clearly, and he was a good loser. There were occasions when the votes went against him, such as on the U.S. Constitution. When Virginia voted to ratify the Constitution, George Mason and other opponents of the document were upset and wanted to organize a protest against the ratification vote. They invited Henry to attend a meeting but Henry declined and told them, ‘We have done our best, we have lost and now it’s time for us to go home’.” 

Jon Kukla is a former director of research and publishing at the Library of Virginia, and a former director at the Red Hill-The Patrick Henry National Memorial in Charlotte County, Virginia. He has been a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. Kukla is currently working on a book about the Stamp Act.

In addition to his new book on Patrick Henry, Kukla is the author of the following books:

1. Mr. Jefferson’s Women

2. A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America

Prior to the speaker’s presentation, the following topics were discussed:

1. ARRT-Richmond and America’s History, LLC (a business member of ARRT-Richmond) donated two checks to Campaign 1776 toward their fundraising campaign to purchase land that was part of the Battle of the Waxhaws. Lindsey Morrison accepted the checks on behalf of Campaign 1776, and thanked both organizations.

2. President Bill Welsch reminded the audience that 2018 membership dues are now due, and should be paid in person or mailed to Woody Childs, ARRT’s Vice President-Membership. 

3. President Welsch made other announcements regarding several upcoming lectures and conferences across the state that relate to the American Revolution. 

 --Bill Seward

Sunday, January 28, 2018

2017 Preservation Partner Donation

(l. to r., Bill Welsch, Lindsey Morrison, Lynne Venter)
At our January 24 meeting, Bill Welsch, president of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond, and Lynne Venter, CFO of America's History LLC, presented Lindsey Morrison of Campaign 1776 donations to aid in the preservation of the Waxhaws battlefield in South Carolina. A portion of each year's dues are donated to an annual preservation partner chosen by the membership. For this year, America's History LLC graciously volunteered to match the donation.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

January 17 Meeting Postponed

Tonight's meeting is postponed until next Wednesday, January 24, 2018.

Everything else will remain the same – speaker, time, and place. Jon Kukla will be presenting “Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty.”  

Friday, January 12, 2018

7th Annual Conference of the American Revolution, March 23-25, 2018

This premier conference, sponsored by the Venter's America's History, LLC, will once again be held in Williamsburg on the above dates. Details may be found at

There are about 150 people already signed up and it will be sold out, so don’t wait to register!

"Virginia Campaign of 1781," February 24-25, 2018

Presented by the Williamsburg Yorktown ARRT. Details may be found here:   It’s filling up fast.

Congratulations, John Millar!

Our own John Millar has been recognized by the Virginia State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. A presentation was made at John’s Newport House of the Good Citizenship Medal, one of the highest awards given to a non-member of SAR. John was honored for the Revolutionary War ship (HMS Rose) that he had built, the ships he’s proposing to build, the books he has written on revolutionary subjects, and the fact that he founded the Bicentennial Council of the Thirteen Original States back in 1970, which raised millions for worthy Bicentennial projects. Congratulations, John! Very well deserved.

2018 Reenlistments Are Being Accepted

Yes, it's a new year and that means that reenlistments are being accepted for the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond. Details and information form are located on the "Dues" page above but the salient points are:

  • Annual dues are $20.00
  • Checks are preferable; please make payable to "ARRT-Richmond" 
  • You may pay at the next meeting or may mail your form and check to the address on the form
Don't be a laggard... submit your reenlistment levy today!