Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Next Meeting: January 15, 2014

The Marquis de Lafayette in person (Charles Wessinger)

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. It is not necessary that you purchase dinner in order to attend the meeting.

University of Richmond campus map:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Book Review: "Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution," by Nathaniel Philbrick

The First "Oval Office" Replica Erected Nov. 15-17, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg erected the recently completed replica of Gen. George Washington's marquee--the first "oval office"--for the first time during the grand opening Nov. 15-17 of  James Anderson's Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury. The weekend marked the first public display of the reproduction of the marquee tent that served as Washington's field headquarters throughout most of the American Revolution. The tent, the first of two to be made, will be on display at the Secretary's Office adjacent to the Capitol at the east end of Duke of Gloucester Street. 

Historic Trades tailors constructed the reproduction entirely by hand during the late spring through early fall for the Museum of the American Revolution, which is planned to open in Philadelphia in 2017. The museum, which owns the original marquee, wanted a replica made for a variety of uses, including testing the mounting system for the original artifact, in advance of the museum's opening. 

The reproduction marquee is made of linen fabrics, some of which were woven by Historic Trades artisans in Colonial Williamsburg's Weaving Shop. Several other Colonial Williamsburg trade shops also participated in reproducing the tent and its pieces. Carpenters and joiners fashioned wooden poles to support the structure. Blacksmiths forged iron hardware and pole fittings. Wheelwrights assisted with small wooden fasteners and paint. Cabinetmakers turned the wooden finials that go atop the tent poles. The completed marquee measures 22 feet long, 15 feet wide and ten feet high. 

The original sleeping and office tent--a national treasure--was one of a pair of marquees made for Gen. Washington in early 1778, at the end of the Valley Forge encampment. Washington returned to his Mount Vernon home with his tents and other military equipment in December 1783 after he resigned his commission. Following his death in 1799 and the death of his wife, Martha, in 1802, Washington's military effects, including the tents were sold at private auction to Martha's grandson, George Washington Parke Custis. The tents were displayed periodically at the Custis home, Arlington House, during the ensuing decades until his death in 1857. While Union Army units occupied Arlington House during the Civil War, many of Washington's military possessions were taken into federal custody until they were returned to the Custis/Lee family in the early 20th century. Various elements of Washington's field headquarters are now held by institutions including the Museum of the American Revolution, the National Museum of American History, George Washington's Mount Vernon, and the National Park Service. 

The reproduction tent, and associated research on General Washington's field equipment, is funded in part by a generous grant to the Museum of the American Revolution from the Acorn Foundation Fund for History in Memory of Alexander Orr Vietor. 

Commemoration Date Set to Honor the Worcester Revolution of September 6, 1774

Nearly eight months before the American War of Independence began with the Battles of Lexington and Concord, 4,622 militiamen from 37 towns marched down Main Street in Worcester, shut down the Crown-controlled county courthouse and, for the first time ever in the American colonies, effectively overthrew British authority.  The date was September 6, 1774.  Not a shot was fired.

William Wallace, executive director of the Worcester Historical Museum, sums up the importance of this largely untold story.  “The Worcester revolt is noteworthy because it was the first actual ‘revolution’ in the War of Independence – the first real seizure of political and military authority to ever occur in the American colonies. And it happened almost a year before the first shot was fired at Lexington and Concord. That's significant."

The Worcester revolt came about in response to the detested Intolerable Acts, a series of bills enacted by Parliament in the spring of 1774.  A key provision of the Acts limited the colonial right to representative government.  This presented a significant problem for the middle-class farmers, shopkeepers and craftsmen who relied on the county courts as their primary source of civil authority and contact with government.  Ultimately, the citizens of Worcester “demanded that the courts be run, as they had been, by officials ultimately accountable to the voters through their representatives, and not to court officers beholden to the Crown,” according to Melvin H. Bernstein, author of the essay Setting the Record Straight: The Worcester Revolt of September 6, 1774.

The impact of the revolt was immediate and widespread.  “The spectacle of the Worcester rebellion against British authority and public humiliation of its officials sent a shock wave across the Massachusetts colony, all the way to Philadelphia where the First Continental Congress was in session,” says Bernstein.  “Worcester’s militiamen had set the stage for an inevitable later, larger confrontation with the British military.”  The following spring, when General Gage decided to mount an offensive, his spies warned him not to attack Worcester, where arms and powder were stored and where patriots were too strong, but to go after Concord instead.  The rest, as they say, is history.

No one’s sure why this story has been untold for so long, but a local coalition is out to change that.  Comprised of historic and cultural organizations from throughout Worcester County, the Worcester Revolution of 1774 is on a mission to develop a sense of community pride in the role the region played in the founding of America.  “We want to raise awareness of this pivotal event in American history to a level on par with that seen in Lexington and Concord,” said Michael Fishbein, coalition spokesperson.  The communities of Lexington and Concord are well-known for elaborate annual celebrations in honor of their revolutionary heritage.  Each year, they proudly celebrate their role in history with authentic reenactments and colorful parades to honor the historic battles fought there.

To do this, a consortium of organizations has developed a website,, and is planning a region-wide, year-long celebration encompassing Worcester proper and the 37 surrounding towns that particip0ated in 1774. The series will be coordinated with a common brand--Worcester Revolution of 1774--to build momentum and leverage the effect of each event on another.

For more information contact Michael Fishbein at (508) 538-1776 or or visit 

Artillery Piece Returned to Saratoga

A Revolutionary War cannon surrendered by the British after the Battles of Saratoga in 1777 somehow disappeared about 1961. Now it’s back at the Saratoga National Historical Park.

Photos from Return to the Hook, October 19, 2013

Bob Yankle has added pictures of the Return to the Hook reenactment that took place on October 19, 2013, at Gloucester, VA. Apparently, this was one of the largest reenactments ever.