Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Next Meeting: May 23, 2012

"Spies in the Continental Capital: Espionage Across Pennsylvania," John Nagy

The meeting will be held in the Westhampton Room, Heilman Center (dining hall--building 34 on the campus map), University of Richmond, at 6:30 p.m. with dinner available for purchase in the dining hall beginning at 5:30 p.m.

University of Richmond campus map:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Great Bridge Battlefield Tour - April 28, 2012

Please join the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond
for a


Tour of

Great Bridge Battlefield 

Saturday, April 28, 2012, at 10 AM

103 Watson Road, Chesapeake, VA


The Great Bridge Battlefield and Waterways History Foundation and the ARRT-Richmond have scheduled a tour of the Great Bridge Battlefield, scene of the December 9, 1775 contest between patriot forces and those of Lord Dunmore, British Royal Governor of Virginia.  Come learn the results!  Here are the tour details:
  • Everyone is responsible for their own transportation to the site (see information below).  Car pooling is encouraged.
  •  Cost is a $12 donation to the Foundation. Checks can be made payable to GBB&WHF.  Payment is due the day of the tour.
  • The tour will take about one and a quarter hours.
  • It's a walking tour, but the park is not that large and there are benches scattered throughout.
  • Everything is wheelchair accessible.
  • Group size limited to 50.
  • Tour is open to all, not just ARRT-Richmond members.
  • If planning to attend, you must send an email to to reserve a spot.  The Foundation will be preparing information for attendees, hence an accurate count is important.  Your email will be acknowledged.

The Foundation offices are located on Mapquest at 103 Watson Road, Chesapeake, VA 23320.  The building is called “Open Roads Consulting” and is located across Watson Road (a very tiny, 100 foot road).  Drive down the long driveway on the right to access the Historic Park parking.  There are about 20 spaces available in the park, and guests are also welcome to park in the Open Roads parking lot.  For more information on the battlefield:

Please join us for an informative morning of Virginia Revolutionary War history.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

New Preservation Chairman

Bill Welsch is pleased to announce that Bert Dunkerly has volunteered to be our first Preservation Chairman.  Bert is both a National Park Service historian and an author of some wonderful Revolutionary War books.  He will be regularly reporting on our new preservation efforts and wider preservation issues.

Dr. John Fea's Book Named as Finalist for George Washington Book Prize

Our January speaker, Dr. John Fea, did an outstanding job with his discussion of "Religion and the Founding Fathers."  John drew our highest attendance ever.  Others, too, realize the quality of his work, as John’s book Was America Founded As a Christian Nation? has been named a finalist for the George Washington Book Prize, one of the largest literary prizes in the country.  You can learn more about the prize by reading the Washington College press release at: luck, John.

Discovery of the Earliest George Washington Document

Courtesy of John Maass, information about the discovery of the earliest George Washington document.  Thanks, John.

Virginia's Revolutionary Heroes, March 17-18, 2012

Presented by Ash Lawn-Highland & the Senior Center, Inc.
Host & Organizer Rick Britton:

A fabulous weekend-long event focusing on three of the Old Dominion’s greatest Revolutionary champions: George Washington, Patrick Henry, and James Monroe.
Saturday, March 17 - Join us at beautiful Ash Lawn-Highland—James Monroe’s Albemarle County home—for an entire day of Revolutionary fun! Our presenters include: acclaimed historian of the 18th-century Jon Kukla; UVA professor & historian Ed Lengel (who’s also senior editor of the Papers of George Washington), award-winning local historian Rick Britton, and historical interpreter extraordinaire Dennis Bigelow.
• 1o:3o a.m. - Meet & Greet
• 11:oo a.m. - “Patrick Henry’s Revolution” - Kukla
• 12:oo noon - Light Lunch (provided)
• 1:oo p.m. - “General George Washington” - Lengel
• 2:oo p.m. - Special Behind-the-Scenes House Tour
• 2:45 p.m. - “James Monroe at the Battle of Trenton” - Britton
• 3:45 p.m. - Ex-President James Monroe! - Bigelow
• 4:15 p.m. - Book Signings plus additional Q&A
Sunday, March 18 - Depart with us from the Senior Center on a Revolutionary day-trip to the Fredericksburg area! We’ll see: the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, the country’s largest repository in the country for Monroe artifacts; beautiful Georgian-style Kenmore, built by Washington’s sister; and wonderful Scotchtown, owned by Henry during the Revolutionary War. Day-trip departs at 9:oo a.m. and returns approx. 6:oo p.m. Lunch in Fredericksburg is on your own.
• Sign up today! Cost for the two-day event is $14o.oo. (Charge includes light lunch on Saturday. Sunday lunch in Fredericksburg is on your own.) NOTE: You can sign up for both days, or you can do one or the other. For more info call the Senior Center Travel Office at (434) 974-6538, see the website (, or e-mail Rick Britton at

Urban Slavery in John Marshall's Richmond, March 2 - May 27, 2012

A new exhibit at the John Marshall House. Explore the role of blacks, free and enslaved, whose lives intersected with John Marshall and his family.

818 E. Marshall St., Richmond, VA 23219, 648-7998

Friday, March 9, 2012

2012 Dues

Enlistment (or reenlistment) dues for calendar year 2012 may be submitted to Mark Groth at the March 21st meeting. Simply present a check payable to "ARRT-Richmond" or cash in the amount of $15.00. Mark will be available in the meeting room beginning around 5:30 p.m. Don't be the last one to sign up!

Meeting Notes: November 14, 2007

"Rebellion in the Ranks: Mutinies of the American Revolution," John A. Nagy

The American Revolution Roundtable – Richmond concluded its first year in existence with a meeting at the University of Richmond on November 14, 2007. The speaker was John A. Nagy and, as usual, was introduced by Lynn Sims, the first Vice President for Programs. Of course it was duly noted that both John Nagy and our President were from New Jersey!

Mr. Nagy is an expert in antiques and antique manuscripts and is also a consultant for the Clements Library at the University of Michigan and has appeared on the History Channel. Mr. Nagy was the founder of the American Revolutionary Roundtable in Philadelphia and is its current president. His book, titled the same as the presentation, is out to the printer and should be available in bookstores on November 28 or at least by December 1 of this year – just in time for holiday giving!

Mr. Nagy’s talk was most interesting and informative and he went into quite a bit of detail concerning mutinies and espionage during the American Revolution. He’d found that 5.8% of all court’s marshals during the Revolution had a charge of mutiny involved although most of those particular situations really involved “disorderly conduct” and not “mutiny.”

Mr. Nagy presented his material with the assistance of a “PowerPoint presentation” which contained not only various quotes that he had referenced but also maps and pictures of some of the places and people involved.

The main points were as follows:
(1) Command and control
(2) Supply problems
(3) Roles of spies and double agents
(4) Washington’s opinions

Although the history of the American Revolution is rich with all sorts of tales of mutiny and espionage, one of the most famous such incidents and one in which Mr. Nagy went into great detail had to do with the Pennsylvania Line Mutiny. Mr. Nagy also referenced the fact that the English had been in contact with a “high officer” whose first initial was “W.” However, once the incident with Benedict Arnold materialized, all such correspondence from the English ceased.

One of the main points that seemed to come out is that a lot of these mutinies had to do with not so much a change of heart as far as allegiances to either the Crown or America were concerned but rather because of concerns about salaries not being paid, individuals being confused about their actual terms of service and, from time to time, concerns about supply of alcoholic beverages!

The question and answer period was quite lively and Mr. Nagy’s presentation was enjoyed by all.

Meeting Notes: September 19, 2007

"George Washington in the West," William G. Clotworthy

The American Revolution Roundtable – Richmond met at the University of Richmond on September 19, 2007. The speaker was William G. Clotworthy (who was ably introduced to the gathering by Lynn Sims, the first Vice President for Programs) whose topic had to do with George Washington “in the west.” Mr. Clotworthy had written a book entitled In the Footsteps of George Washington but his emphasis for this talk was George Washington “In the West.”

Mr. Clotworthy was retired but had been in the broadcast business for many years. His last twelve years were with NBC where he had a job which he was sure no one thought existed – “the network censor for Saturday Night Live!”

Mr. Clotworthy’s talk was quite interesting and frankly he was very easy to listen to. He talked of how there were so many places in this country where George Washington either slept, battled, grew up, was born, or in fact “bathed.”

Mr. Clotworthy spoke of George Washington’s early years where he was acting as a surveyor and as a true “Western visionary.”

In 1748, George Washington joined a surveying party put together by Colonel Fairfax. He indicated surveying was arduous; there were plenty of snakes to deal with, mountains, rivers, and it was very physically challenging. However, this benefited George Washington greatly as he learned so much in dealing with all of these adversities, the various challenges, people to deal with, the Indians to be traded with, and so forth. In fact, one of the finer points of all this was that George Washington developed his sense that he was “the master of various events.” Mr. Clotworthy spoke of the effects of the Fort Necessity debacle, but in this, as was to be his lot later in life, George Washington seemed to lead a charmed military life.

According to Mr. Clotworthy, the West really molded George Washington because he learned in that setting as a surveyor, and as an officer during the French and Indian War the necessary attention to detail, dealing with shortages and all of the problems associated with that life and yet he was constantly drawn to the West and constantly thought of it.

In conclusion, Mr. Clotworthy felt that George Washington really always had the welfare of the country in his mind and heart and that his great object was the perpetuation of our nation’s strengths.

Meeting Notes: May 23, 2007

"The Virginia Continentals," John Pagano

The May 23, 2007 meeting of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond, Virginia was held at 6:00 p.m. (a little earlier due to U of R’s schedule) in the Westhampton Room at the University of Richmond. The speaker was John Pagano who was introduced to the gathering by Lynn Sims, the first Vice President for Programs.
Mr. Pagano works with the Jamestown and Yorktown Foundations as well as Colonial Williamsburg and is an historical consultant with Lion Heart Productions. He’s from upstate New York and styles himself as a “museum gypsy”.

He came armed with a DVD from Lion Heart which showed him as well as others in the various uniforms of the Virginia Line as it’s called.

Mr. Pagano’s story included the infamous Wintermarch during the winter of 1779-1780 and how long it took after leaving New Jersey on December 14, 1779, getting to Philadelphia on Christmas Eve, making it to Fredericksburg in February, to Petersburg on March 8th, Camden, SC some 23 days later and finally to Charleston on or about April 6th. One of the reasons this march took so long was that this winter saw some of the worst weather and marching conditions of the period.

Mr. Pagano’s most informative presentation also covered the accomplishments of the Virginia Line as far back as 1777-1779 as well as some (but not all of course) of the political infighting in the group during its march to Charleston.

Meeting Notes: March 21, 2007

"The American Rifleman," Michael Cecere

The March 21, 2007 meeting of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond, Virginia was held at 6:45 p.m. in the Westhampton Room at the University of Richmond. The speaker was Michael Cecere who was introduced to the gathering by Lynn Sims, the first Vice President for Programs.

Mr. Cecere teaches high school at the Robert E. Lee High School in northern Virginia, has written a number of books, has been a reenactor for approximately eight years, has a Masters from the University of Akron, is from Maine and is a “Coast Guard Brat”.

Mr. Cecere came dressed as an American Rifleman, gave a very informative program about the long rifle and compared and contrasted it with a smooth bore musket which was, of course, not as accurate but which could be loaded much quicker.

He indicated that there weren’t many long rifles north of Pennsylvania and frankly the Virginia riflemen were quite popular and some think they just got spoiled when they went up to help out in Boston.

The presentation was very well received and the speaker was especially animated during the question and answer session.

Meeting Notes: January 17, 2007

"Revisions to Boatner's Encyclopedia of the American Revolution," Dr. Harry M. Ward

This was the inaugural meeting of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond, held on the 226th anniversary of the Battle of the Cowpens. Forty-two members attended.

Meeting Notes: November 19, 2008

"The Art of Intelligence Warfare in the Eighteenth Century," John K. Rowland

Dr. Rowland lives in Northern Virginia and did his undergraduate and graduate at George Washington University, The College of William & Mary, and Ohio State University. He is a retired full colonel and is also retired from the National Defense Intelligence College.

Dr. Rowland made a number of points and I will try to describe them as follows:

1. Modern definitions don’t work when you are talking about military intelligence because the military intelligence of the 17th to 18th Century was very different from our modern view of military intelligence. This has to do with a number of factors including technology, distrust, modern conceptualizations, organizational rivalries, etc.

2. One of the key works of the military intelligence literature of the 17th & 18th century was Turpin de Crisse in his essay “Art of War” in 1754. Actually, Dr. Rowland had referenced a number of reading suggestions as read ahead material which may be accessed by clicking on the “readings suggestions” tab to the left on our website.

3. The 18th Century definition of military intelligence was all significant military and political information regardless of the source, etc.

4. The objectives of 18th Century military intelligence were as follows:

a. Highest priority were the enemy plans and intentions.

b. Knowledge of the campaign area relating not only to the physical set up (geography, terrain, roads, towns, forage sites, etc.) but also the cultural matters.

c. Enemy, enemy - where is the enemy? In other words, the location of the enemy was, of course, of paramount importance and we have to remember that that was very difficult to ascertain.

d. Characteristics of the fortifications.

e. Quality and experience of the commander involved.

f. Discovery of false intelligence.

g. Warnings about what to avoid.

5. One of the key elements of military intelligence and the problems relating to same was whether or not you were going to be ambushed and that was something to be avoided at all costs if possible.

6. What were the techniques of collecting military intelligence? These were some of the ones which Dr. Rowland pointed out:

a. Counter intelligence or “doublespies”.

b. Funding.

c. Multiple agents.

d. Motivating spies by paying them off.

e. Articles that appeared in the newspapers.

f. Concealment, codes, ciphers, invisible ink, etc.

7. What were the sources of the military intelligence? Dr. Rowland pointed these out:

a. Country people, including spies and scouts.

b. Insider information.

c. Prisoners and deserters.

d. Captured documents.

8. What were the causes of military intelligence failures? Again, Dr. Rowland pointed out these examples:

a. Faulty intelligence consisting of fragmentary information and information that was untimely.

b. Faulty analysis of what was really going on.

c. People just not paying attention because of “wine, women and song”.

d. Information not being trusted, poor teamwork, etc.

9. There are often faulty assumptions that accounted for military intelligence failure such as:

a. People assumed that maps existed when in fact they didn’t.

b. Assumptions that the locals had the capacity to fight when they didn’t.

c. Spies and agents were motivated by money.

d. It was very easy to enter into enemy camps and staffs.

e. Often commanders would just “guess at it” and these guesses might be uneducated.

f. Failure of a particular force to adapt to conditions such as the British failing to adapt to American warfare.

10. Finally, Dr. Rowland pointed out some military intelligence failures with four particular people in American history: General Braddock, Thomas Gage, John Burgoyne and George Washington. In fact, Dr. Rowland had a number of slides which showed the different ways in which these particular four people either failed or attempted to succeed and with each of them he started off the slide with a map showing the situation at hand.

11. With respect to Braddock, he indicated that his operational experience was moderate and his intelligence experience was minimal because he had no combat experience. He didn’t know much about the country and he was very often surprised.

12. As far as Lt. General Thomas Gage was concerned, he thought his operational experience was significant and his intelligence experience was moderate but his knowledge about the country was poor as far as the geography and distances were concerned. He was very surprised about the powder alarm in August of 1774, Concord in April of 1775 and, of course, Bunker (“Breeds”) Hill in June of 1775.

13. With respect to Lt. General John Burgoyne and the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, he indicated that Burgoyne’s operational experience was significant as was his intelligence experience. However he had poor or only moderate knowledge about the country and he certainly was surprised in many ways.

14. Finally, Dr. Rowland pointed out Washington’s mistakes in the Battle of Long Island on August 31, 1776. He indicated that Washington’s operational experience and intelligence experience were both moderate but he wasn’t too aware of the countryside and especially of the roads on Long Island and, of course, the paths that the British came through which enabled them to get the best of Washington.

In conclusion, Dr. Rowland talked about the European aspects of remembering and rediscovering military intelligence all the way from classical Rome. He pointed out that they needed to update these military intelligence techniques because of new technologies especially those that enhanced mobility and speed. It is important to note as was pointed out in one of the questions, that sometimes in today’s world the commanders have lost touch with exactly what is going on because all they get is the “committee approved” sense of what is going on when in fact the commanders really need to see and feel the facts themselves so that they can make “educated” guesses as to what in fact should be done.

We had a spirited question and answer session and Dr. Rowland’s talk was very enjoyable and most informative.

Meeting Notes: September 17, 2008

"The Black Sheep of the American Colonies: Georgia Fights for Survival and Respect During the Revolution," Jim Jordan

Our speaker this month, Jim Jordan from New York, has a BA and a Masters degree from Pace College. Although he was originally from New York, he is now living in South Carolina and has just published his first novel beginning with the early 1800’s - called Savannah Grey.
Mr. Jordan posited the question: Why did it take so long for Georgia to enter into the revolutionary spirit? For example, even though Virginia was founded in 1607, the twelfth colony, Pennsylvania, was not formed until 1682 and then Georgia, the thirteenth, finally came in as a colony fifty years later in 1733.

The problem was that Spain had founded Florida and thus two countries, England and Spain, were claiming some of the same land. Oglethorpe went to King George and let him know that he wanted to found a colony in the Americas for hard working poor and thus got permission from King George to set this up. Oglethorpe traded with the Indians and came up with what is known as Oglethorpe’s Utopia in 1734. Savannah was laid out in wards but this private charter from King George was only for twenty-one years. Oglethorpe’s dream died around 1754, because the colony couldn’t make it and thus became a royal colony.

The Spanish attacked Oglethorpe and Oglethorpe even tried to attack Florida but he lost when he attempted to attack St. Augustine. Oglethorpe even wanted the trustees to ban slavery but the trustees decided against this and in any event the charter was forfeited and Georgia became a royal colony.

Over the years after that and during the French and Indian war and the prelude to the American Revolution, Georgia reluctantly participated from time to time in the various issues that were affecting the other colonies. However, for example, only one colony accepted the “Stamp Act” - Georgia!

After the battles of Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress met in May of 1775 but only twelve of the thirteen colonies were represented because Georgia did not send anyone. There was a small section or county of Georgia that was represented but Georgia itself was not represented in this early congress. However, several months later after the Battle of Breed’s (Bunker) Hill, Georgia sent five delegates to its “Council of Safety” in July, 1775.

About this time there really were two powers in Georgia, that of the Royal Governor represented by Governor James Wright and the Council of Safety. The Council of Safety closed the Savannah Harbor and there is their famous comment to the Governor “Sir James - you are my prisoner” - in January of 1776. The Governor was allowed to remain at his home under “house arrest” upon the promise that he would not escape. He agreed to that but one month later he did escape with loyalists and left on a ship for England.

One of the main patriots in Georgia was Button Gwinnett who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (declared on July 4, 1776 but not signed until August 2, 1776). This was, of course, some turn around because Georgia had reluctantly gone along but was now fully patriotic.

The problem was, however, that Florida had been given to Spain under the Treaty of Paris and that had always been a thorn in the side of the Georgians. There were lots of loyalists down there and most of those loyalists then went to Florida and became known as the Florida Rangers.

Florida even attacked Georgia and the Georgians wanted to attack Florida but the weather was always just too hot. Actually Georgia did attack Florida or at least tried to three times but they failed on each of those occasions and thus, as Mr. Jordan mentioned, this was “three strikes and they were out.”

The first attack, albeit unsuccessful, was under General Lee in August and September of 1776. He was in charge of what was known as the Southern Department composed of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Then in February of 1777 Button Gwinnett with the state militia and Lachlan MacIntosh, who was in charge of the Continentals, tried to attack Florida but this also failed mainly because Gwinnett and MacIntosh just could not get along. These two finally fought a duel in May of 1777. They both took just two paces, turned around and fired. Both of them were shot in the leg but Gwinnett’s wound was worse, he bled terribly and then died three days later. MacIntosh was prosecuted for this (not the duel but the fact that he shot Gwinnett) but was acquitted. However MacIntosh was always despised by the Georgians and so he transferred to Pennsylvania.

The third attempt was when Governor Houstoun tried in April of 1778. He also tried to go down to Florida with the militia but was undermanned.

After the Americans were successful at the Battle of Saratoga in October of 1777, the British tried a new strategy in sailing south in attempting to conquer Georgia and then going northward from there. The British were successful in Savannah and in fact in the battle there, the Americans were basically slaughtered and totally wiped out. There were a number of other battles as the British tried to move north and even French Admiral D’Estaing attempted to help but there were coordination problems and lots of concerns especially when D’Estaing “treated” with the British right before the Battle of . Because D’Estaing waited so long, there were lots of casualties there and the famous Pulaski was killed at that battle.

In conclusion, the reason that Georgia was a black sheep, so to speak, and the reason there were so many loyalists down there is that they were the last colony to be formed and were right next to Spain’s interest in Florida and so far away from the action. However, as mentioned, there was this great turnaround and Georgia finally took up the cause with great gusto!

Meeting Notes: July 23, 2008

Twenty-two attendees enjoyed the discussion and show-and-tell meeting. The discussions were lively and interesting. Giles Cromwell and Steve Schmit presented and discussed (and let us handle) some really fascinating artifacts from their collections. Thanks, gentlemen. We'll try this approach again next July, with a few "lessons learned."

Meeting Notes: May 21, 2008

"The Founding of the Continental Navy," John F. Millar

The May 21, 2008 meeting of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond, Virginia was held at 6:00 p.m. in the Westhampton Room of the University of Richmond. The speaker was John F. Millar, who was ably introduced by Jerry Rudd in Lynn Simms' absence. Mr. Millar graduated from Harvard in 1966, was born in New York City and has lived in Rhode Island and the UK. He currently resides in Williamsburg and operates a bed and breakfast there.

Mr. Millar was responsible for building a full sized operational copy of the 1756 24 Gun British Frigate “Rose” and the circa 1770 12-gun Continental Navy Sloop "Providence" to help celebrate the Bicentennial. He's not currently connected with either ship and in fact the "Rose" was used in the movie Master and Commander and is now docked in San Diego with the name "Surprise" which was its cinematic name.

Mr. Millar came dressed as a captain in the Continental Navy with red and blue colors. These uniforms turned out to be not exactly the best choice as far as colors are concerned because the British Navy finally decided on blue and white and it would have been better had the Americans dressed in the same colors. Then, upon being spotted in spyglasses by the British, perhaps they would not have been fired upon so readily. Mr. Millar also passed around "Johnny cakes" which were cornmeal pancakes of the day with the "secret ingredient" that was a main topic of his talk ("rum").

Back then, it was very difficult to preserve food. One of the ways was to preserve flour with rum. Molasses is used to make rum but in those days, by virtue of the "Sugar Act," by law Americans could only export molasses to another English colony (in order to preserve English trade). It so happened that Haiti, one of the French islands, had oceans of molasses, but the French did not want molasses exported to France for fear of adversely affecting brandy - the holy grail in France! So Haiti offered free molasses to the American colonies. However, the English colonies (except for Rhode Island as referenced below) had English governors appointed by the Crown. Thus those English governors said "no" to this offer because of its potentially bad effects on English trade.

However, Rhode Island had originally been established with an elected governor and elected public officials as an experiment in religious toleration. It was pointed out to the King that if in fact the governor were not elected by the people, then this experiment in religious toleration would certainly fail. Thus, the king went along and the governor was elected along with the other officials.

This set the stage for the governor of Rhode Island, who was beholden to the electorate as opposed to the King, to go ahead and take Haiti up on its offer of free molasses. As a side note, Mr. Millar pointed out that it seemed strange that Virginia imported so much rum from Rhode Island. Of course Rhode Island didn't grow sugar cane and also it seemed that Virginia would have been filled with alcoholics to have imported so much rum. The answer, of course, was it was first of all because of the offer of free molasses from Haiti but also because rum, having been converted from molasses, was the food preservative of choice. Thus, it would be nothing for lots and lots of rum to be found in Virginia kitchens.

In 1763 the French and Indian War came to an end and the Sugar Act was abolished. This was again the law which had prohibited all of the English colonies (i.e., American colonies) from exporting molasses to any colony other than an English colony. However, as a result, a big duty was imposed. Thus, Rhode Island, which had been the unintended beneficiary of this law, had to resort to smuggling.

What happened then was that the British Navy would send small ships to Rhode Island to try to stop this smuggling. Also, the British forces would try to conscript American sailors and press them into service on their own ships. However, the law in England which granted this right, exempted Americans.

Well, Stephen Hopkins, who was the governor of Rhode Island at the time, went aboard the first British ship that came in and basically told the 19-year-old lieutenant who was the commander to "buzz off" and stop conscripting Americans. The 19 year old commander said "buzz off yourself" and gave him five minutes to leave his ship, whereupon Hopkins went to the fort there in the harbor and told the gunner to sink that schooner. This was the schooner "St. John."

On July 9, 1764 the gunner went ahead and trained his guns onto St. John. (In fact, as Mr. Millar pointed out, these shots on St. John were really the first of the American resistance.) The St. John didn't know what else to do, so it cut anchor and sailed away.

The British sent three more ships, which were in turn burned and whenever a letter would to come to inquire as to what in the world was going on, the Americans would finally send a letter back saying they didn't know exactly what happened but they would form a commission to look into it. In each case a commission was formed and their reply back to the crown was that as far as they knew, the people involved in burning these ships were "persons unknown from Connecticut!" Thereupon the English offered quite a large reward which at the time amounted to over a million dollars. It's quite interesting that no Rhode Islander would come forward to collect that reward although virtually everyone in the state knew at least someone who had been involved in the burning of these ships.

Stephen Hopkins then had the idea to write letters all over the colonies and to set up these "committees of correspondence." (Anyway this is the very first of the setting up of these "committees of correspondence.")

The committees didn't work so Hopkins said "let's meet in Philadelphia and talk about it" and that was of course the First Continental Congress which really met even before the Boston Tea Party. However, as Mr. Millar pointed out, these actions by Rhode Island have been lost in history. No one remembers that Rhode Island really led the way in these early acts of resistance against the Crown.

Finally, in 1774 the English sent the "Rose" which was a 24 gun British frigate. (Remember the copy that Mr. Millar built above.) That of course stopped the smuggling as it was a much larger and deadlier ship. It was about that time that four brothers in Rhode Island would become quite wealthy with all the molasses and rum and founded Brown University. (Another Millar sidenote: their wealth came approximately 90% from rum and molasses and 10% from the slave trade. Thus, it really is not true that Brown University was founded on the "backs of slavery").

Mr. Hopkins had Congress form an American Navy and the first ship was a sloop called "Providence" (Again, remember the other ship built above). Thus, the American Navy was formed with only one ship.

Hopkins got Congress to approve ships on a piecemeal basis so by January, 1776 they had eight more ships. One of the questions was where was the crew going to come from to man these ships? It turned out that there were so many unemployed seafaring citizens in Rhode Island, that that's where the crew came from. These citizens had been formerly of the smuggling trade.

The way the Navy was set up is that the head of the Navy would have no power and the various captains of the ships would vote to decide what to do. Governor Hopkins' brother became head of the Navy and the first mission, instead of heading north to Providence, was to go down to Nassau to try to get some gun powder from the British which hadn’t been guarded very carefully. Unfortunately for the expedition, the British got wind of this expedition and sent their gunpowder to Florida. The Americans did grab some cannons which frankly were not that great.

In any event, after this expedition the Navy did go up to Rhode Island to try to get rid of the Rose. They arrived on April 8, 1776 but the Rose had left voluntarily on April 7 not knowing that the Americans were headed their way. And, of course the Americans didn't know that the Rose had left a day earlier.

In any event, on May 4, 1776 Rhode Island declared independence from England which again, was two months earlier than the rest of the colonies. So, Rhode Island was really the first to declare independence even though it was one of the last to ratify the Constitution after the war!

Another footnote about the Continental Navy: frankly it was hard to get sailors because so many of them really wanted to work as privateers where they could get more "booty" and not be subject to imprisonment by the British Navy.

After the war, Benedict Arnold, then in London, felt that it would be in Britain's interest to have the American maritime commerce thrive. The trouble was that there were so many Arab pirates around that the Americans really could not protect their own ships. So it came to pass with the British ships guarded the American ships. King George III informed John Adams, who was America's first ambassador in London at that time and he hightailed it down to the docks and sent a letter off to Congress about the King's decision (to protect American shipping) and so our Navy was dissolved because the British Navy was guarding our ships. However it came to pass later that the British Navy was needed to guard its own shores and thus the Continental Navy was started up again sometime later.

Finally, Mr. Millar pointed out that Stephen Hopkins, who was frankly one of John Adams' main mentors, really founded the post office even though credit is often given to Benjamin Franklin instead. Apparently Hopkins actually introduced the resolution about the post office and merely suggested that his friend Benjamin Franklin take charge. That's how Benjamin Franklin apparently was given credit for having founded the post office even though he really was only asked to come in at the behest of Mr. Hopkins.

Suffice it to say that Mr. Millar's talk was quite informative and interesting and was made more so by some of his tales of how he went about to build the copies of the two ships, the “Rose” and the “Providence”. From all of this we can be assured that Rhode Island certainly figured quite prominently in the formation of the Continental Navy!

Meeting Notes: March 19, 2008

"Irregular Warfare on the Frontier," Glenn F. Williams

The March 19, 2008 meeting of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond, Virginia was held at 6:30 p.m. in the Westhampton Room of the University of Richmond. The speaker was Glenn F. Williams, who was as usual ably introduced by Lynn Simms, the first Vice President for programs. Mr. Williams is working on his Ph.D. from University of Maryland, and, like our last speaker, is with the U.S. Army Center for Military History in D.C. He is the author of The Year of the Hangman: George Washington’s Campaign Against the Iroquois.

Mr. Williams also brought greetings to us from the American Revolution Roundtable of D.C. where he is not only a member but also is the program chairman.

Mr. Williams’ topic was General Sullivan’s expedition campaign against the Indians in the frontier and he started off with a series of questions that he hoped to answer having to do with what was actually the result of this campaign.

The background of all this is that the Six Nations of the Iroquois were almost like an empire because they presumed to conquer other Indian tribes. They also had tribes, at least to the west, who were very much dependent upon them. They, especially the Seneca Nation, were most aggressive and for the most part the British had been able to use them in various ways against the Americans.

There was of course some divergent views among the British as to how to use the Indians. Colonel Guy Johnson wanted to unleash the Indians but Governor Guy Carlton who was the royal governor of Canada, wanted to use the Indians more as auxiliary forces and as backup forces. One of the problems, according to some British thought, was that if the Indians were really “unleashed,” then they wouldn’t really know the difference between Whigs and the Tories, which would of course have had disastrous results for the British.

Around 1777 all of this changed when Lord Germain who was really conducting the war from London sent a letter to General Carlton in the Northern Department to use the Indians in a more aggressive manner. Thus during 1777 and 1778 the British more or less had their way in the frontier because the Indians took the British side. Mr. Williams provided numerous examples of all of these campaigns but with specific emphasis on the Wyoming Valley Massacre which occurred on July 3 and 4 in 1778.

The British plan, so to speak, was to have the Indians cause so much havoc in the frontier that the Americans would have trouble first of all getting the frontiersmen to leave their homes and join militias to fight against the British for fear that their home fires would be stamped out by the Indians and their families would be massacred. Also, the plan was to have so much Indian activity in the frontier that the Americans would have to detach various forces to help protect the frontier.

In the fall of 1778, George Washington ordered two regiments into the frontier. This was really a small effort but at least it made people feel that the Continental Congress was doing something to help the settlers.

Finally, we’re back to the Sullivan Campaign which really took place in 1779. The idea here was to reduce these so-called Six Nations into submission and on the other hand try to cultivate Indian friendships. One of the goals was to bring a lot of pressure to bear on the Indians. Another goal was to destroy their crops so that they would have no food for the winter of 1779-1780. The Americans knew that the British had used certain enticements to get the Indians to join them, one of which was that the British told the Indians that if they would come and fight for them that they would protect them, support them and feed them. Thus, by the Americans destroying the Indians’ crops, this made the British have to support the Indians which they were really unable to do. In fact, it became clear from certain correspondence that the British really were completely unable to feed and clothe these Indians.

Thus, we went back to answer some of Mr. Williams’ initial questions. This campaign was really not an “ethnic cleansing” which is of course a more modern term but really was a strategy on one hand to get the Indians to be friendly with the Americans but also on the other to take away the Indians’ ability to feed themselves which would put substantial pressure on the British. In fact, this really was a successful strategy!

At the conclusion of the talk Mr. Williams took questions. For one thing, the question was asked whether or not the Indians and settlers traveled mostly by water or on land. Mr. Williams indicated that frankly most of the transportation and moving around in those days was by water with canoes and so forth. The Indian paths were only one man wide, the trapper paths were a little bit wider to accommodate pack mules, and the fewer trails for armies were really only wide enough to accommodate cannon.

The question was also asked as to why Washington chose General Sullivan for this campaign. Mr. Williams thought that was a very good question because in fact General Sullivan really had only “two good days during the Revolution:” one was during this campaign and the other was at Trenton.

Mr. Williams also mentioned that at the conclusion of this campaign, so many of the Indians really did migrate up to Canada.

In conclusion, Mr. Williams’ presentation was very good, very interesting, and he used lots of slides which were most helpful.

Meeting Notes: January 16, 2008

"Tarleton's Charlottesville Raid and the British Invasion of Virginia," John Maass

The January 16, 2008 meeting of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond, Virginia was held at 6:30 p.m. in the Westhampton Room at the University of Richmond. The speaker was John Maass, a graduate of that great institution in Lexington, Virginia known as Washington & Lee University. He was introduced to the 54 member gathering by Lynn Simms, the first Vice President for programs.

Dr. Maass, who earned his PhD from Ohio State University in history, is with the U.S. Army Center for Military History and his topic was Tarleton’s Charlottesville Raid and the British Invasion of Virginia.

The action took place beginning around April of 1781. General Cornwalis had been in the Carolinas and decided for many reasons to try to invade Virginia. Lt. Col. Tarleton was 26 years old at the time, a redhead, and even though he had quite a reputation in the Carolinas for brutality, he behaved himself relatively well in Virginia, all things considered. He had been from a wealthy merchant family and had purchased his way into the service. He rapidly rose through the ranks and led the daring raid to try to capture Virginia’s General Assembly which had moved to Charlottesville.

Opposing Tarleton was Lafayette who was 23 at the time and who was serving under General Nathaniel Greene.

Of course a famous incident took place relating to this raid when Tarleton stopped in Cuckoo, Virginia at a tavern. There it was reported that Jack Jouett overheard some of Tarleton’s men or officers talking about their plans to go after the General Assembly in Charlottesville. Jack Jouett thus got on his horse and rode the approximately six miles to Charlottesville and thus “saved the day.”

As part of this incident, Jouett rode up and awakened Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, and there had a little wine before heading into Charlottesville itself.

The British did capture Daniel Boone in this raid, and even though he and others were kept in a “coalhouse,” Tarleton had boasted that he had treated everyone pretty well.

As part of this affair, Jefferson was portrayed as somewhat cowardly because he fled just minutes before the British got there. Instead of following the General Assembly to Staunton, he went first to Blenham, another plantation in Albemarle County, and then onto Poplar Forest just outside of Lynchburg. Dr. Maass reported that there really wasn’t much that Jefferson could do but it just didn’t “look right” for Jefferson to be heading to Poplar Forest instead of to Staunton. Jefferson’s term as governor of Virginia was over on June 1, but the thinking was, particularly with Patrick Henry and his supporters, that Jefferson was really just “invisible” and a “coward.” A number of the delegates tried to censure Jefferson for his actions in this matter, although the General Assembly cleared him.

So in the end the raid failed because Tarleton was unable to capture Jefferson and of course was unable to capture the General Assembly because thanks to Jouett, Jefferson got away and the General Assembly escaped to Staunton. Tarlteton decided, due to his supply lines, not to venture over the Blue Ridge to Staunton.

However, the raid into Virginia did cause quite a bit of consternation and concern among the residents. In any event, it was the quick thinking and heroic efforts of Jack Jouett which caused the British to fail. As a result the General Assembly awarded Jouett French-made pistols for his efforts although he didn’t really get to receive them until 1803!

Dr. Maass’ presentation was very well-received, and he certainly spiced up the event with pictures of a number of the players in the story as well as some handouts. Unfortunately, we only have one likeness of Jack Jouett - a silhouette.

Meeting Notes: November 18, 2009

"Phillip Vickers Fithian: The American Revolution Through the Eyes of an 18th Century Diarist," Dr. John Fea

A lot of people may be familiar with Fithian’s diary when he was working as a tutor in Virginia. However, there was much more, and in fact there are approximately seven volumes of his writings and other items.

Fithian was a chaplain in the Continental Army. He was present at the Battle of Long Island and attended the College of New Jersey at Princeton, now known, of course, as Princeton University.

Dr. Fea has written a book with this same title that can be read either as a biography or in a broader context as reflective of what was going on during these days in our country’s history.

Fithian was born in a small town about twenty-five miles southwest of Philadelphia. His life stretched out before him was to continue working on the farm as so many others did. But Fithian did not want to stay on the farm. He would perform his farm tasks but at night would read quite extensively from Cato’s Letters, Locke, Hobbs, Voltaire, etc. So he was not like the others his age.

He was most interested in political ideas about a decade before the American Revolution.

He often wrote letters to his father which seems kind of strange to us since his father lived right there, but apparently this was quite common in that time. Within these letters to his father, we find him begging to go to school and he finally convinced his father to let him go. Obviously, he saw his path differently from that of others.

When Fithian got to Princeton he saw that it was very strongly evangelical and John Witherspoon, who signed the Declaration of Independence, was the President at the time. The school was intensely religious and patriotic and they all understood that “God was on the side of America” and that England was the tyrant.

Madison was about a year ahead of him and Aaron Burr was in his actual class, so he was quite steeped in all of this revolutionary fervor.

One of the incidents mentioned was when he forgot his “robe” which of course the students in those days were wearing. He didn’t have the money to buy another. He felt excluded and so wrote his folks for the money to buy another robe.

In his senior thesis he wrote that political jealousy is a good passion.

Fithian joined fifty of his classmates in becoming a preacher and of course he went on to be a tutor at the Carter Plantation in the Northern Neck of Virginia. He was most concerned about loyalists but from there he went on to serve as a chaplain in the Revolutionary War.

There are three main ideas that Dr. Fea pointed out that were paramount in Fithian’s mind:
1. Religion was a motivating factor in politics. He felt that all Christians were patriots and if you fought with the British you were not being a Christian. The Presbyterians were of course Calvinists and felt that God was in control. In all of this thought really merged with the thinking of the Enlightenment.

They felt very strongly that they needed to rebel against England and that tyranny was a sin, that God hates sin and thus God was on the side of the Americans. He was what we would call a “Wig Providential.”

2. People had to have a conversion to the revolution and so the idea of becoming a patriot was more of a religious experience. He was willing to risk his life for this!

3. This is also sometimes known as “The Rural Enlightenment” when the American Revolution was coming to local places. It came to the New Jersey countryside where a lot of the young ones were getting together and debating the various issues of the day.

As far as the question and answer session was concerned, it was somewhat abbreviated for various reasons, but one related to the fact that Fithian as a chaplain did carry a musket but he never fired it. Also there was a story of how the British would support Anglican Churches and the American Revolutionaries would support the Presbyterian Churches. In fact there was one stand-off where the British were taking cover behind an Anglican Church while the Americans were taking cover behind a Presbyterian Church. The British prevailed and burned the Presbyterian Church to the ground. In other words, the British were very suspect of the Presbyterians and of any religious orders that were not Anglican. The loyalist were obviously mostly Anglican.

We certainly enjoyed Dr. Fea’s presentation and he gave us some very special insights into how the American Revolutionary fervor and the religious fervor were tied together in those days.

Meeting Notes: September 16, 2009

"Siege of Yorktown: Example of Formal 18th Century Siege Warfare," Glenn F. Williams

The situation was that there were approximately 6500 Continentals surrounding New York City with Rochambeau and about 4500 French on Rhode Island. Greene was heavily engaged in North Carolina and, of course, the war on the frontier was continuing.

On July 28, 1781, deGrasse told Rochambeau that he would be going to the Chesapeake. Then on August 2nd Lafayette saw Cornwallis fortifying Yorktown. He informed Rochambeau and next, of course, on August 14th Rochambeau notified Washington. About three days later the first units began crossing the Hudson as they were heading very quickly down to Yorktown.

Approximately half of the main Continental Army was on the road to Yorktown with the others staying behind to try to convince Clinton that there was still a strong presence there in New York. There were approximately 2500 Americans and 4500 French heading down to Yorktown.

At the Head of Elk, there were approximately 80 vessels taking the soldiers down to Yorktown.

In the 1600’s Vauban described siege warfare and of course everyone was still copying him.
Mr. Williams then described at length how siege warfare operated with the Americans opening up their first parallel on October 6th. Thus on October 7th the British awakened to see the first trenches! The rainy weather helped with visibility, muffling the sound, of course making the digging so much easier. There were trench guards and what we call pioneers and there were, of course, the famous battles of redoubts 9 and 10 with the French attacking redoubt 9 and the Americans under Alexander Hamilton attacking redoubt No. 10. Once the French and Americans won they changed the orientation of the guns so that they could be firing on the British.

Mr. Williams noted that “point blank range” meant not so much that you were right next to the people in shooting, but that their guns were at ground level.

The goal of siege warfare was to open up a breach into the lines of the enemy and to avoid a frontal attack. The idea was to get the enemy to give up without much of a fight so that there wouldn’t be a lot of casualties.

The British tried to get out at Gloucester but that didn’t work, and so finally the surrendered around October 18th.

The surrender actually took place in what is known as the Surrender Field. There had been a lot of negotiations about what would happen, but George Washington insisted that the Surrendered Soldiers would be taken as prisoners of war and would not just be sent back to Europe.

It’s interesting to note that Cornwallis did not appear for the surrender and the British officer offered the sword first to Rochambeau, but Rochambeau pointed to Washington, but then Washington said that Lincoln should receive the surrender sword. Lincoln received it symbolically but then returned it and then they all had dinner together!

During the question and answer session, one of the questions was where the prisoners of war were sent? Mr. Williams explained that they had been sent to the Winchester area mostly.

Another question was why was Yorktown so significant, because of course the war did not end officially for several years thereafter. Was it really a political victory or maybe men and material victory? Mr. Williams indicated that it was really a combination of both. Factors: The Americans had won at Saratoga and now that they had won at Yorktown and so another British field army had been “taken off” the board. So really at this point there was only about one more field army left in New York, which was about 7000 strong, as well as some other British in Canada and on the frontier I believe. Frankly, according to Mr. Williams, everyone was just really “war weary”.

It’s interesting to note, as Mr. Williams pointed out earlier in the lecture, that the American Revolutionary War had become a minor theater of a more global world war and that’s the reason the French had to go back and forth, for example to the Caribbean because there was fighting going on in the Caribbean, in Asia, Europe, etc.

Another question was where or not the slaves did the digging and the answer was that even though there were a lot of slaves who helped especially with cutting trees and so forth, the actual digging of the trenches was an army job done by soldiers.

In conclusion, I would report that this was a very interesting presentation and it was made even more interesting by virtue of the numerous slides that were presented.

Meeting Notes: July 15, 2009

"Camp Followers of the Continental Army," Holly Mayer

Bruce Venter introduced our speaker, Dr. Holly Mayer, Chair of the History Department, Duquesne University, Pittsburg, whose subject was the women camp followers of the Revolution.

Dr. Mayer pointed out quickly that the name”campfollowers” did not have the same meaning as today. These often followed their soldier husbands and preformed valued services for the troops. They served as laundresses, cooks and nurses. They were required to carry their on their backs. Quite often these women were refuges as the area they lived had been taken over by British troops or partisans. The women lived in the same quarters as the men. Often when a husband was killed, a woman would live with another man to keep standing in the regiment, creating common law marriages until an official marriage could be preformed. Some of these women were paid for their services as housekeepers and sutlers. They crossed all social lines and ethic groups.
A good example of women working with the men was in the Canadian Regiment of the American Army.

Many women were use as spies for both armies.

After the war many of these camp followers were eligible for pensions.

Dr Mayer also stated that while there were prostitutes with both armies, it was more to the financial advantage to stay on the British side.

Meeting Notes: May 20, 2009

"The Military Leadership of George Washington," Dr. Edward Lengel

Dr. Lengel is currently at UVA where he is Associate Professor of History. He received his BA from George Mason and his MA and PHD from UVA.

He has been very much involved in the “Washington Papers Project” which has been in existence for the last forty years. The goal of this project is to gather together copies of every known Washington document in the entire world, transcribe it and publish it both in print and digital format.

So far the project has uncovered 135,000 documents, but there are huge gaps. Since 1969 sixty volumes have been published with about 500 to 700 pages each, but there are still about thirty volumes to go with about fifteen years left!

The one advantage of the digital versions is that they are fully searchable with one version being accessed by subscription and the other being accessed (if you can find it) at the Mount Vernon website.

As Dr. Lengel pointed out, this has been a tremendous challenge because George Washington left behind so many documents. He was very concerned about his place not only in history, but the importance of his place in history for the United States. He referred to his documents and so forth as a species of sacred property. It is interesting to note that on his deathbed one of his main concerns was that someone take care of preserving his papers. The trouble is that when he died, his legacy was ripped to pieces. For example, one of his descendants, Bushrod Washington, allowed a Harvard professor to take away for his use a lot of the documents. He sent back some of the documents, but many more he kept back and so when George Corbin Washington sold what was left to the Library of Congress, a whole box of documents just flatly disappeared.

When Flexner wrote his biography of Washington in the 1960’s, he didn’t think much of the Washington papers project, because he didn’t think there was much left to discover. However, much has since been accomplished.

For instance, they’re now up to approximately 1778 when Washington was encouraging the espionage network. Despite Washington’s reputation in some quarters, he loved to fight, but he also was quite a “micro-manager”, especially in terms of what he did for the espionage network. Up to that time the espionage activities were not really centralized. Just about every general had their own spies and so forth, including a “bizarre” collection of people. Washington tried to put all of this together what with his interest in invisible ink, double agents and the like.

We now get into Dr. Lengel’s main topic, having to do with Washington’s character as a leader and a manager. We generally look at the big battles as critical turning points. For example, Trenton, Princeton or perhaps Monnmouth or Yorktown or Greene’s Campaign in the South.

Dr. Lengel maintained that although these were important battles of course, they didn’t really represent the what, how and why they and George won the war and what Washington’s qualities were.

Who was Washington? People have said for many years that we need to humanize him. Since people want to humanize him, and since George was in some ways “dull and boring”, the temptation was to make things up, and to create stories out of “whole cloth”.

Dr. Lengel thinks that one of the ways to realize exactly who George Washington was, was to research George Washington’s involvement at Valley Forge. In the Fall of 1777, the US had gone through some disastrous and bleak periods. The British under Howell had sailed into the northern tip of the bay and landed at the head of Elkton Maryland. General Howell believed there were a great many loyalists in that area and that if he took Philadelphia, these loyalists would join in the cause.

Howell marched north and of course defeated Washington at the Battle of Brandywine in September of 1777. That battle was actually one of Washington’s worst efforts. For example, Howell faked him out with a feint in one direction and then an attack in the other and so in September of 1777, Howell was able to take Philadelphia.

In the Battle of Germantown, Washington had designed this effort for October of 1777. However, it was too complex and really just did not work out. Then Washington attempted to starve out Howell, but that of course also did not work.

In the meantime, Gates won his great battle at Saratoga, so Washington moved into Valley Forge.

It’s interesting to note that this was an unpopular move on Washington’s part and many people at the time thought him very stupid because they thought he was going in the wrong direction. Instead, Washington insisted that they go to Valley Forge and build huts which they had to build from scratch instead of other locations where they would have had better protection from the weather. There was also a lot of trouble because there was a supply crisis - the supply of flour was almost gone and frankly the only thing left was rotting meat and basically just misery. There was a lot of hissing and hooting and hollering and a lot of the officers were just quitting and going home. Some people felt that Washington exaggerated how bad it was in Valley Forge, but Dr. Lengel believes that Washington did not exaggerate and in fact it was really bad! The food was gone, the clothing was in tatters, people were barefoot, there were epidemics of typhus and cholera and if anyone were sent to the hospital, such amounted to a death sentence.

For example, at this time there were ten thousand to twelve thousand troops, and about two thousand of them died.

It’s interesting to note that it really wasn’t that cold in Valley Forge and the temperatures hovered around freezing. This meant that the rain and sleet and so forth turned the dirt roads to mud and that really was of course worse than if the roads had been frozen and if the roads had not turned to mud. A lot of fords and ferries were washed out. However, what did Washington do? This was a critical moment for a soldier and obviously if a soldier were to see officers faltering, then he would fall to pieces as well. That of course as I mentioned above began to happen at Valley Forge and there were a blizzard of letters from the lieutenants and colonels and so forth indicating that they had to leave for their farm, for their business and so forth and they wanted Washington to give them furloughs or if he failed to do so, they would just resign. For example one of Washington’s favorites was a William Woodford, and Washington almost had to beg him not to go. Woodford said sorry, too bad, see you later and off he went.

Of course there were people like Nathaniel Greene, who took over the quartermaster duties in March and General Von Steuben, who was great in drilling the soldiers and of course Knox.

But most of everything really was on George’s shoulders. He had created the Continental Army basically from scratch and this army really depended on one man, George Washington! It was frankly good that Washington was a micro-manager, because he took all of these duties on himself. He wrote lots of letters and orders, letters how to cut cloth when scarce, how to take care of sanitation, all about discipline, maintenance, hospitals, etc.

From all of this we begin to see what kind of mind he had. He was able to keep in his mind all of these facts and he had an extreme capacity for detail. He also was able to recognize good advice when he got it and that was helpful because he was getting all sorts of advice from so many people. Fortunately, he usually chose correctly.

It’s important that he had this critical understanding of not just what happened in battles, but he was always looking into supporting the army and how they were to survive and he dealt very often with so many people in the Congress and in states and the governors, county officials, farmers, etc. He understood that he needed to foster good relations with them all, because he really needed everyone and the whole country to support the army. Nobody was too small for him to get involved with.

It’s interesting to see what happened at the Battle of Monmouth in June of 1778. At that time the army was better equipped, and the morale was so much better. A lot of this was based on what Greene had done. Of course Charles Lee mis-managed the troops and so when Washington came up and appeared, he basically stopped the retreat single-handedly. There was electricity in the air and once they saw Washington come up, the soldiers stopped their retreat. Feelings towards all of this changed. He showed them that he cared very much for them at Valley Forge day after day. He was very visible and Dr. Lengel believes that his greatness really was the fact that he stayed so visible in so many small ways and that showed his soldiers that he really cared about them personally and about the army in particular.

The question and answer session was also quite helpful. The first question was if the men thought it was stupid for Washington to go Valley Forge, why did he insist on this? Dr. Lengel maintains that Washington understood the need to control the countryside. He wanted to be in the immediate area so that he could influence what was going on and to work constantly to cut off attempts for supplies to the British from the countryside. It’s interesting to know that he said that Washington learned a lot from the Hessians in Trenton. Lengel maintained that it’s not that the Hessians were so drunk at Trenton, but it was more that they were really isolated from the countryside and thus were vulnerable to a sudden attack.

We had to cut off the question/answer session fairly promptly because the students were away from University of Richmond and the cafeteria needed for us to be heading on. At any rate, Dr. Lengel provided a very interesting analysis of not only the Washington papers project, in which he is so very much involved, but also of course his views of George Washington and how his ability to micro-manage gave Washington a more visible and sympathic appearance to all of the solders of the Continental Army and frankly all of America.

Meeting Notes: March 18, 2009

"The Hurricane of Independence," Tony Williams

Williams compared the frenzy of the Revolution early in the war to the hurricane that struck the east coast in September of 1775. He states that more attention was being paid to the talk of taxation and the shots fired at Lexington and Concord than the weather. The hurricane came ashore in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, sweeping up the coastline and striking the cities of Norfolk, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston before going back to sea. It later struck Newfound. The hurricane clamed over four thousand lives. It indirectly began the shooting war in Virginia. A British ship had been grounded near Hampton. Some of the crew came ashore, ransacking some nearby dwellings. Some Americans fought with the remaining crew and a ship to shore action developed.

Three principles were born during this period:

One - Idea of liberty, both political and religious
Two - Idea of self government
Three- Idea of limited government

Meeting Notes: January 21, 2009

"Who Won the Battle of Camden?"  Dr. John Maass

The Americans, led by Horatio Gates and Baron DeKalb, were a mixture of Continentals and militia from Virginia and North Carolina. Gates was new to the command and not used to milita. The movement of the troops from North Carolina took longer than planned and with the slow movement of supplies from Virginia to North Carolina all led to Gates frustration. Also the fall of Charleston in May, 1780 had deprived the Americans of approximately four thousand troops.

Camden was a British garrison town manned by twenty-two hundred troops. These troops were made up of 3rd and 23rd Regiments and the 71st Light Infantry. These troops were led by Lord Cornwallis, Lord Rawdon and Lt. Col. James Webster. In addition were Provincials, the British Legion under Tarlton,The Volunteers of Ireland The Royal Regiment of North Carolina.

First Issue:

How Gates moved to Camden?
What was his route?
Did it matter in the end?

Gates had no intention of attacking a garrison. He took a position north of the water course and waited for Sumter and Marion. He wanted the British to attack his army.

Second Issue:

Move to Saunders Creek.
Did his army consist of 3,052 or 7,000 rank and file?

There were enough men for the 10:00 P.M. march; however he had very few Calvary. He also expected no contact. The two forces met at 2:00 P.M.

Third Issue:

Did Gates handle his army as should have?
Should Gates have retreated?

Fourth Issue:

Did he flee the battlefield?
Did he attempt to rally the troops?
Did have a plan if defeated?

Reputation: He left his troops with the hope of reorganizing them at Hillsbourgh, North Carolina.

Meeting Notes: November 17, 2010

"Battle of Guilford Court House," Josh Howard

Josh Howard, the presenter, was introduced by Bruce Venter and his topic was "The Battle of Guilford Courthouse" which was based on his book that he co-authored with Dr. Larry Babits, entitled Long, Obstinate, and Bloody: the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.

The Battle took place in March of 1781 and of course Nathaniel Greene, who was 38 at the time, was pitted against Cornwallis who was 43 at the time. This was quite a battle and even though the British held the field at the end of the day, in many ways quite a blow was struck against the British. The book, which was based primarily upon pension records that Howard and Babits had gone through (they had poured through approximately 12,000 of those records) contains Howard and Babits' theory that frankly Greene had already chosen the plain at Guilford for this epic battle because of the three ridgelines. Greene knew that Cornwallis liked flank attacks and thus these ridgelines on the sides of the plain greatly hampered Cornwallis in what he wanted to do.

The talk was quite informative and contained an excellent PowerPoint presentation along with photos and diagrams. Mr. Howard pointed out that Greene died in 1786 at the age of 43 and even though he was virtually penniless at the end of the war, he had been given two plantations. He died on one of them but obviously died before the Constitution was adopted. Had he lived, according to Mr. Howard, he would have been elected Vice President at the very least. Obviously this presentation was much more about Nathaniel Greene and his ability to be a good general than about the Battle of Guilford Courthouse which, by the way, is a battle that has not been given its due in the history of the American Revolution.

This was a stellar presentation and there was quite a lengthy and helpful question and answer session at the end.

Meeting Notes: September 15, 2010

"Innoculation and the Revolutionary War," Tony Williams

On Wednesday, September 15, 2010 the American Revolutionary Roundtable was privileged to hear Tony Williams speak about "Inoculation and the Revolutionary War." Tony has authored The Pox and the Covenant and The Hurricane of Independence.

Bruce Venter, the vice president of programs introduced Tony Williams and indicated that Tony was last with us in March of 2009 talking about the Hurricane of Independence.

Mr. Williams went to Syracuse University and Ohio State and is now living and teaching in Williamsburg. His second book, The Pox and the Covenant, is a featured selection for the history book club and is of course listed at

First of all, Mr. Williams wrote a little bit of how and why he seems to be drawn to "national disasters" in his writings.

In any event, in 1721, a convoy coming up from Barbados had on board an African sailor who had contracted smallpox. He didn’t have any symptoms right away and so went onshore in Boston and was shaking hands, etc. with everyone. Once the pox took hold, it quickly spread around the entire town.

It's interesting that a well-known individual stepped into the fray as a doctor because he'd studied medicine at Harvard. This person is known to us well as Cotton Mather. He had talked to one of his slaves and found out from his experience that sometimes if an incision is cut and one had been touched with live pox, then the symptoms would become milder.

Cotton Mather was vain and assumed people would follow his lead. He was met, though, with stony silence from the other doctors. Finally, a certain Dr. Boilston tested the theory out on his own 6-year-old son and two slaves as well (both father and son). One of the questions was, of course, why are you giving someone the pox when you're trying to avoid it?

Also, in 1761 the Virginia House of Burgesses outlawed this idea of inoculation. George Washington waivered on the idea but did not order inoculation. But it was clear that the British had a lower incidence of smallpox. In London, they had a lot of it there so it may have been that people survived and thus in effect were inoculated about it. But the American-born Tories did not have that same type of protection.

Benedict Arnold in Quebec allowed inoculation but did not order inoculation.

Finally in Philadelphia Benjamin Rush started inoculating the delegates and even inoculated Patrick Henry. Obviously a lot of people remember the John Adams miniseries and Abigail's inoculation of young Quincy.

Meeting Notes: July 21, 2010

"Researching Your Revolutionary War Ancestor," Bob Spencer and Brent Morgan

Meeting Notes: May 19, 2010

"Spycraft in the American Revolution," John Nagy

Bruce Venter provided an interesting discussion concerning Simon Girty. His father, Simon, Sr., was a fur trader and well-liked, but was killed in 1749 by an Indian in a brawl. Simon, Jr. was born in 1741 in Pennsylvania and early in his life, shortly after his father was killed in the brawl, he was forced to live with Indians in western New York and the Pennsylvania region. He became very successful in the Indian way of life and learned approximately nine to eleven dialects. Although illiterate, he certainly was adept at language and could remember "messages" well. Thus he became quite an important courier first for the British, then for the Americans, and then he turned again and went back to serve with the British. Although often considered an "outlaw" Simon Girty, Jr. was involved in quite a number of interesting activities.

John Nagy then spoke about "Invisible Ink and Spycraft of the American Revolution." As referenced in our meeting notes from his November 2007 presentation, Mr. Nagy is an expert in antiques and antique manuscripts and is also a consultant for the Clements Library at the University of Michigan and has appeared on the History Channel, most recently, on Book TV. It's interesting to note that in some ways Bruce Venter's presentation and John Nagy's presentation tied in together because it was obviously very difficult to get messages through because often the messages would fall into the hands of the wrong parties. That was one of the reasons that Simon Girty was so important as a courier because he could remember these messages verbatim.

Obviously, since there were very few Simon Girtys around and especially since Simon Girty had really turned back to the British, people who wanted messages to go back and forth had to rely on invisible ink or on codes and ciphers so that if the messages did fall into the wrong hands they could not be read or understood.

Obviously there was no expectation of privacy in the mail and so it started out that the merchants would send their messages in code because they didn’t want their competitors to learn of their prices.

Mr. Nagy showed us a number of examples of these codes and had us try to decipher a number of them. For example, to bring it up to modern day times, the computer named HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey is representative of one of those codes where a letter would be used once one beyond the actual letter. So for example, HAL is really an acronym or code for "IBM" since I is one letter past H, B is one letter past A, and M is one letter past L. There were also codes that were related to books such as the Blackstone Commentaries 5th Edition, dictionary codes, etc.

There also what were known as "dead drops" where parties would prearrange that messages would be put, say, in a tree or in a box in a cow pasture or in a ball of yarn or perhaps under a rock.

Then of course there was the actual invisible ink which is the ink mixed with something acidic such as lemon juice. Then in order to read it, heat would be applied to weaken the fibers and disclose the message.

There were also "hidden compartments" such as a false heel in a shoe, a lining of clothes, the channel for a drawstring, etc.

Finally, Mr. Nagy referenced some of Washington's deceptions because these were designed to confuse the enemy. For example, Washington would often fill barrels with sand to make the British think they were actually filled with gun powder. He would multiply the number of troops, especially through fake reports from spies. In fact one of the most obvious of his deceptions was to fake or feign an attack on New York in 1781 in order to steal his march to Yorktown.

Meeting Notes: March 17, 2010

"The Battle of The Capes," John Quarstein

John Quarstein was ably introduced by Bruce Venter, our Vice President. Mr. Quarstein is an award winning historian, preservationist and author and since February of 2008 has been the City Historian for the City of Hampton. He previously served as Director of the Virginia War Museum and of course he has been very involved in the future of Fort Monroe.

The Battle of the Capes, fought on September 5, 1781, really involved no Americans, but was a naval battle between the British and the French. It’s interesting to note that the fate of the New World depended upon a naval battle between two European countries! Ever since the Seven Years’ War when Edward Hawk won a major naval battle for the British, one would have thought that the French ships would have been much better during the American Revolution. That’s because since the French lost so many ships during the Seven Years War, they had to rebuild their fleet and thus their warships were more modern.

However, the British also made major improvements to their ships since the Seven Years’ War especially with respect to signaling, putting copper on the bottom of the wooden boats (to increase speed and thus reduce “drag” from all of the crustaceans which attached to the wood), the establishment of “carronade” (which involved short, smoothbore, cast iron cannons with an approximately 200 yard range which were used when the ships were very close to each other), and finally the “musket lock system” for firing the cannons so that they didn’t have to light the fuse from afar.

Mr. Quarstein also pointed out that the British form of naval warfare involved shooting at the hulls and the broadsides of enemy vessels and thus having cannons pointing straight across or down, whereas the French had their cannons pointed upward towards the mast of enemies, thus seeking to cripple those ships.

However, one of the issues that really was an “Achilles heel” for the British was that their Fighting Instructions “in use” for many years was that they organized themselves “in line”.

In any event in the Battle of the Capes Compte De Grasse had approximately twenty-one ships whereas the American Station of the British had probably only about seven or so and thus were greatly out-numbered. The French won the battle and thus were able to seal off Yorktown, which of course permitted the Americans to prevail. Mr. Quarstein also showed his splendid knowledge of the many important admirals and prominent figures in the two navies.

We had quite a turnout for this meeting and of course the question and answer period was quite long and interesting as well and was not restricted to just to the Battle of Capes but involved other battles in other times in history as well.

Meeting Notes: January 20, 2010

"Battle of Monmouth," Richard Bellamy

Richard Bellamy, who is a board member of the Friends of Monmouth Battlefield is also a licensed battlefield guide at Gettysburg and is much in demand, spoke on the Battle of Monmouth at our first meeting in 2010. Because Bill Welsch and Richard Bellamy are longtime friends and Bill wanted to introduce him, Bruce Venter took over for the introductory portion of the meeting and then Mr. Bellamy was ably introduced by his good friend (and our president), Bill Welsch.

Mr. Bellamy came with handouts showing the battlefield in great detail and the handouts also included a list of books which are on sale at the Friends of Monmouth Battlefield gift shop for those who either want to purchase from the gift shop or who want to follow-up with their own studies. Mr. Bellamy pointed out that frankly the best book on the Battle of Monmouth remains one by William S. Stryker who wrote it in 1898 (although the 1927 edition sponsored by the Friends of Monmouth Battlefield is the best one now).

The Battle of Monmouth took place on June 28, 1778. General Charles Lee was in charge in the morning portion of the battle but he was later relieved by George Washington and court martialed. The testimony in that proceeding gives us the best glimpse as to what happened at least in the morning part of the battle. Frankly the battle lasted all day from about 8:00 am until 8:30 that night so we only really know about the morning hours in detail.

At the time, people in America were in thirds: one-third being the rebels, one-third being the loyalists and one-third being those who just wanted to be left alone. The whole Revolutionary War lasted approximately eight years with about 10,000 casualties and even though most large battles found only about 10,000 participants, there were upwards of 31,000 soldiers in action at the Battle of Monmouth!

The Battle of Monmouth was the last major battle in the north. It came following Washington’s defeat at Brandywine in September of 1777, his loss at Germantown in October of 1777 (opened up the Delaware River so that British warships could bring in food for their occupation of Philadelphia) and then, of course, Washington went into winter quarters in December of 1777 at Valley Forge.

Mr. Bellamy pointed out that even though there were tremendous hardships at Valley Forge, it was remarkable that Washington was able to keep his army together in the field despite so many losses and despite so many supply problems. It was also at Valley Forge, of course, that Baron Von Steuben arrived who really changed Washington’s army from a ragtag type group into a well organized and disciplined European type army.

In May of 1778, Clinton became the new commander and decided to move his forces back to New York. Because his approximately 100 ships were not enough to transport all of his men, Clinton sent the Hessian soldiers first and by ship because he really wasn’t that convinced of their allegiance. They were from six different municipalities in Germany but were not really mercenaries because they were not being paid directly but were in fact receiving their normal pay and the German princes were the one receiving the funds for having these soldiers in the field. In any event, one of the reasons that Clinton didn’t trust the Hessians was because the Continental Congress had been encouraging them to desert with the promise of land and so forth. In fact, approximately one out of six Hessian soldiers did in fact desert.

On June 18, 1778 Clinton started his march north through New Jersey with approximately 18,000 men and 1,500 wagons. His wagon train was approximately 12 miles in length and he also had approximately 1,000 women and children who were loyalist types who did not, of course, want to remain in Philadelphia.

On June 21, 1778 Clinton crossed the Delaware River and it was about a week later on June 28th that the battle actually took place.

There was obviously a lot of controversy about what happened and when. General Charles Lee, who really out ranked everyone except George Washington himself was thought to have ordered a disorderly retreat. Washington got furious with Lee and relieved him immediately and then rallied the troops.

At the end of the battle, the British moved on and so one of the questions is “who really won”? In effect it might have been considered a “draw” and frankly if Clinton had stayed, the British might have won. Of course Clinton’s whole idea was to get his army up to New York. Clinton had always thought that it was really his baggage train that Washington was going after.

At the end of the day, however, the Americans held the field and of course it was during this battle, as mentioned, that Washington got so furious at Lee for what he perceived as this “disorderly retreat” and it was Washington’s rallying of the troops that really enhanced his reputation as the premier general of the American forces.

What were the casualties like? Frankly a lot of sources report how many people were killed and injured on both sides but none of those sources really agree. Actually in effect the Battle of Monmouth was a “political battle”. Perhaps Charles Lee’s involvement would have been forgotten except that Lee demanded and received a court-martial. At the court-martial he was found guilty of three charges but was probably only guilty of one and that is disrespect of a superior officer. There is a real question in Mr. Bellamy’s mind as to whether or not Lee ever was involved in a disorderly retreat.

Because of Charles Lee’s conduct at the Battle of Monmouth and because of General Horatio Gates’ blunders in the south, everything worked together to secure Washington’s reputation for all the time.

We had quite an animated question and answer session and we thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Bellamy and his insightful commentary.