Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Friday, March 9, 2012

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.