Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Next Meeting: November 19, 2014

"Stand to Horse! The Dragoon at War," Dennis Farmer

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:

Meeting Notes: September 17, 2014

"The Road to Yorktown: Jefferson, Lafayette, and the British Invasion of Virginia," John Maass

A few months prior to the Yorktown campaign, the armies of Cornwallis and Lafayette played the military equivalent of “cat and mouse” across the landscape of Central Virginia.

“Many history books give only 2-3 pages to Lafayette’s Virginia campaign,” said historian John R. Maass at the September 17 meeting of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond. “This was Lafayette’s major independent command. From mid-April until mid-September his time in Virginia was his major show during the War.”

Maass is currently working on a book about Lafayette’s Virginia campaign prior to Yorktown, and will be leading an American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond bus tour on November 16 to many of the sites where Lafayette’s army marched and camped. 

“Almost all of Lafayette’s campaign sites in Virginia can still be found today if you know where to look,” said Maass. “Many of the sites are known and most of his campaign correspondence still exists today.”

In February 1781 Lafayette left Washington’s army with a detachment of 1,000-1,200 light infantry who were from New England and New Jersey. The troops headed to Virginia with the mission to attack British soldiers camped in Portsmouth under the command of turncoat General Benedict Arnold, and to hang Arnold if they captured him.

Lafayette’s troops arrived in Richmond between April 28-29. In fact Lafayette’s army arrived just in time to prevent British troops under the command of General William Phillips from crossing the James River at Manchester to loot and burn Richmond. Phillips’ troops retreated from Manchester back to Petersburg, where Phillips caught a fever and died on May 15.

On May 20 the British army under the command of Lord Charles Cornwallis reached the Petersburg area after its long march across the Carolinas and Southside Virginia. Cornwallis had approximately 5,000 troops, including 500-600 cavalry under the command of Colonel Banastre Tarleton. These forces were much larger than Lafayette’s 1,000-1,200 troops which included only 40-50 cavalry.

“Lafayette’s goal was not to fight a big battle with Cornwallis,”said Maass. “He wanted to shadow the British and wait for the arrival of reinforcements coming from the north under the command of Mad Anthony Wayne.”

At all times Lafayette wanted to keep a river between his army and the much larger British army. Lafayette also wanted to keep his army between the British and Hunter’s Iron Works, a major supplier of American swords and other war materials which was located in Falmouth, just across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg.

On May 24 the British marched out of Petersburg and crossed the James River near Westover Plantation in Charles City County, where they camped. After Cornwallis crossed the James River, Lafayette’s army packed up all of the supplies they could carry and marched northward out of Richmond via what is today Route 1.

Lafayette’s army crossed Upham Creek in today’s Lakeside neighborhood at what was then called Brook’s Bridge. From this bridge his army continued its march northward and crossed the Chickahominy River at what was called Winston’s Bridge, near what is today Green Top Sporting Goods. While Lafayette marched northward, the British marched northwest and then north from Westover Plantation, burning tobacco and other commodities which they couldn’t carry with them.

“Cornwallis was interested in burning stuff and wrecking stuff,” said Maass. “Tobacco was frequently used as a currency to pay American troops so burning tobacco was a means of burning American currency.”

The British marched through the Malvern Hill and White Oak Swamp areas and camped near Bottom’s Bridge on the Chickahominy River and what is today Route 60. From Bottom’s Bridge the British continued their march northward toward Old Church in northeastern Hanover County and then toward Newcastle, a town with 50-60 structures that was located on the Pamunkey River. At this time Newcastle was a large river port but nothing exists today other than an archaeological site.

After reaching the Pamunkey River the British marched northwest along the river, passing through Hanovertown and reaching Hanover Courthouse on May 30 where they rested in the Hanover Tavern area. Along the way they burned warehouses, captured French cannons and destroyed them.

From Hanover Courthouse the British continued their march northwestward to what was called Cook’s Ford, near what is today the Route 1 bridge across the North Anna River near Kings Dominion. During the Civil War, this area was part of the North Anna Campaign.

“This was Cornwallis’ farthest point north, other than some movement with his cavalry forces,” said Maass. “From here he was only 20 miles from Fredericksburg and those iron works that were located just across the Rappahannock River.”

Meanwhile, Lafayette’s troops left the Richmond area and marched northwest on the Mountain Road toward Dandridge’s Plantation, which was located on the South Anna River and modern-day Vontay Road in the Rockville area of Hanover County. The plantation house still exists today and is now called “Oldfield”. During the American Revolution, Dandridge’s Plantation served as a supply center for Lafayette’s troops and their horses. 

After resupplying his army Lafayette headed toward Beaverdam in northwestern Hanover County and then across the North Anna River at what was called Davenport’s Ford, and today is Route 738. Lafayette’s immediate goal was to move toward Fredericksburg and stay between the British and Hunter’s Iron Works. However he also wanted to avoid getting too close to Tarleton’s cavalry.

“Tarleton’s troopers were literally occupying Lafayette’s camps only 90-120 minutes after Lafayette’s small forces had retreated,” said Maass.

Lafayette’s army continued its northerly march and on May 31 they passed Mattaponi Church, a wooden structure near the Ta River. His army continued northward to the site of the old Spotsylvania Church , near what is now the new Spotsylvania courthouse complex. They camped in this area around June 2.

From Spotsylvania Courthouse his troops headed northward toward the Rappahannock River where they hoped to meet the American reinforcements under the command of Mad Anthony Wayne. Earlier these reinforcements had crossed the Potomac River near Leesburg and were marching southward to meet Lafayette in the Fredericksburg area.

Lafayette’s men crossed the Po River on Corbin’s Bridge (modern-day Route 612) near what is today Todd’s Tavern. They camped in this area for one day.

While Lafayette continued to move northward, Cornwallis made the decision near modern-day Kings Dominion to turn westward and launch raids against this part of Virginia which was only lightly defended by the Americans. His goal was to capture and destroy American supplies and crops in such areas as Scottsville, Columbia, Cuckoo Tavern, Shadwell and Charlottesville.

Leading the British attack was the two-pronged advance of Colonels John Simcoe and Banastre Tarleton. Simcoe’s forces marched on what was known as Three Chopt Road (modern-day Route 250), and then changed direction toward Columbia. The rest of Cornwallis’ infantry headed toward Elk Hill (just west of Columbia) and then toward Point of Fork at the confluence of the James and Rivanna Rivers.

Tarleton’s cavalry rode through Cuckoo Tavern on their way to Charlottesville with the goal of capturing Governor Thomas Jefferson and members of Virginia’s General Assembly, who had fled to this area from Richmond. Fortunately for Jefferson and most of the legislators, Captain Jack Jouett spotted Tarleton’s cavalry and rode approximately 40 miles from Cuckoo Tavern to Charlottesville via a shorter route than Tarleton’s route to warn the governor and legislators about the planned British cavalry raid.

While the British headed toward Columbia, Point of Fork and Charlottesville, Lafayette continued his trek northward through what is known as The Wilderness, the same terrain that would become even more famous during the Civil War. Lafayette’s army camped near Wilderness Run and what is today the intersection of Routes 3 and 20. From this campsite Lafayette’s army crossed the Rapidan River at nearby Ely’s Ford in search of Mad Anthony Wayne’s reinforcements.

After Lafayette received word of the British movement toward Charlottesville he sent orders to Wayne for him to change direction and head toward a rendezvous with Lafayette’s army in an area between Culpeper and Orange Courthouse. Lafayette’s army then headed west and south where his troops re-crossed the Rapidan River at Raccoon Ford, one of the best crossings on the Rapidan River because its riverbanks were low.

On June 10 the forces under Lafayette and Wayne met each other approximately four miles from Raccoon Ford at what was formerly known as Verdiersville and is now known as Rhoadesville. The exact site of the rendezvous is not known.

The combined forces then headed westward toward Orange Courthouse and then generally southward on what is modern-day Route 15 toward Zion Crossroads. They camped in this area near what was called Boswell’s Tavern. From there, they marched to a site called Boyd Tavern, which was east of Charlottesville on a creek. At this point Lafayette got word that Cornwallis had turned eastward and was headed back toward Richmond, which the British entered on June 16. They stayed in Richmond approximately three days before marching off toward Williamsburg, which they reached on June 25.

“It looks as if all Lafayette did was retreat but there was no way he could tangle with Cornwallis,” said Maass. “Lafayette was aware of this and how his troops had very limited supplies.”

Maass is a historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C., and holds a PhD in early American history from The Ohio State University. He is also the author of the following three books:

1. The French and Indian War in North Carolina: The Spreading Flames of War

2. Horatio Gates and the Battle of Camden—“that unhappy affair,” August 16, 1780

3. Defending a New Nation, 1783-1811

--Bill Seward

Edward J. Larson Presentation: October 11, 2014

The National Park Service and North Jersey American Revolution Round Table welcome Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward J. Larson to Morristown. Larson will discuss his new book The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789, at Washington’s Headquarters Museum auditorium, Morristown, NJ   Larson will speak about the crucial, yet often overlooked period in George Washington’s equally distinguished career and life. When George Washington retired from the army to lead a quieter life at Mount Vernon in 1783. In The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789, Larson reveals how Washington “saved” the United States by coming out of retirement to not only lead the Constitutional Convention, but to also serve as America’s first president. Vice President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Professor of History at the University of Virginia Dr. Andrew O’Shaughnessy says, “This book is one of the best illustrations of the ability of individuals to change the course of history.”

This special event is free and open to the public, book sales and signing will follow Larson’s program.    Students and teachers especially welcome.

EDWARD J. LARSON is University Professor of history and holds the Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University.  Larson is also an inaugural Library Fellow at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington in Mount Vernon, VA and a Gay Hart Gaines Distinguished Visiting Lecturer of American History for 2013-2014. He received the Pulitzer Prize for History for Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion. His other books include A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign; An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science; Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory; Evolution's Workshop: God and Science on the Galapagos Islands; and Trial and Error: The American Controversy Over Creation and Evolution. Larson also co-authored (with Michael P. Winship) The Constitutional Convention: A Narrative History from the Notes of James Madison, published by Modern Library Classics. He lives in California.

American Revolution Round Table of Richmond: 2014 Book Award Winners

2014 Book Award Co-Recipients

The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire. By Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy (Yale University Press, 2013).


 The Battle for the Fourteenth Colony: America’s War of Liberation in Canada, 1774 – 1776. By Mark Anderson (University Press of New England, 2013).

2014 Honorable Mentions

Charles Lee: Self before Country.  By Dominick Mazzagetti (Rivergate Editions, Rutgers University Press, 2013).

Dunmore’s New World: The Extraordinary Life of a Royal Governor in Revolutionary America.  By James Corbett David (University of Virginia Press, 2013).

Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence. By Alan Gilbert (University of Chicago Press, 2012).

Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire. By Eliga H. Gould (Harvard University Press, 2012).

Crescent Moon over Carolina: William Moultrie and American Liberty. By C. L. Bragg (University of South Carolina Press, 2013).

A Generous and Merciful Enemy: Life for German Prisoners of War during the American RevolutionBy Daniel Krebs (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013).

The Swamp Fox: Lessons in Leadership from the Partisan Campaigns of Francis Marion.  By Scott D. Aiken (Naval Institute Press, 2012).

Embattled Farmers: Campaigns and Profiles of Revolutionary Soldiers from Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1775-1783.  By Richard C. Wiggin (Lincoln Massachusetts Historical Society, 2013).

American Revolution Era Map Lectures: October 25, 2014

The Library of Virginia will be hosting map lectures focused on American Revolution Era maps and atlases on October 25, 2014. Dr. Max Edelson and Dr. Martin Bruckner will be giving lectures starting at 1:00 PM.

Saturday, October 25, 2014
Map exhibition | 11:00 am
Lectures | 1:00 pm
Place | the Conference Rooms and Lecture Hall at the Library of Virginia
Special Collections Viewings 10:30 am & 11:30 am
Please call 804.692.3561 for reservations.

Reading Maps in the Age of the American Revolution
by Dr. Martin Br├╝ckner, University of Delaware
This lecture recovers the art and science of “mappery” in early America. A rare
term revived during the Revolutionary decades, it meant the study of mapmaking
and map reading. Discussing a variety of maps owned by the Library of Virginia,
the lecture describes American encounters with popular maps and the practical
and symbolic role of map literacy in the age of revolution.

Reading Atlases from Both Sides of the American Revolution
by Dr. S. Max Edelson, University of Virginia
As the Revolutionary War began, London’s mapmakers published atlases that
put forward the idea of an interdependent Atlantic empire. At the same time,
the Continental Congress gathered together colonial maps to describe an
independent nation. Drawing on examples from the Library of Virginia’s map
collection, this lecture describes how Britain and the United States used maps
to picture the America they each sought to create.
This event includes a special oneday exhibition of Revolutionary-era maps beginning at 11:00 am. For more information and reservations, please call 804.692.3561 or visit

Publications: Revolutionary War Intelligence

There are two publications that the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence has published.  They are both on line. Go to  “The Founding Fathers of American Intelligence” was published in 1999.  The other publication, “Intelligence in the War of Independence,” was published in 1997.

(Thanks to Chan Mohney.)

Allen McLane Public Symposium: October 25, 2014

The Allen McLane Public Symposium will bring the life and military career of this noted son of Delaware, Allen McLane, to the attention of the people of our state and beyond.  He has been called the “Unknown Hero of the Revolution,” “Delaware’s Daredevil” and “Washington’s Favorite Cavalryman.” 
McLane was a patriot, partisan leader, soldier, and spy for eight years during the Revolutionary War.   Subsequently, he was a government servant, Delaware’s first marshal, member of the Privy Council, member of the House of Assembly, and magistrate, and then for 32 years served as the Collector of the Port of Wilmington. 
The symposium’s impressive list of speakers includes: John Nagy, author of Invisible Ink; Glenn Williams, military historian; Chuck Fithian, retired HCA archaeologist; Edith McLane Edson, descendant of McLane and writer; Robert A. Selig, writer and noted Rochambeau Revolution Route advocate; and Michael Lloyd, long-time McLane researcher.  Also featured will be a presentation by the 1st Delaware Regiment and a portrayal of Allen McLane by Tom Welch.  Delaware State University Professor Samuel Hoff will serve as the master of ceremonies.
Participants will receive a free copy of the booklet “Allen McLane –Patriot, Soldier, Spy, Port Collector,” which has been written by a team of scholars, researchers and historians, each of whom has a unique perspective on the McLane story.  Some of the same writers will be presenting at the symposium. 
The symposium will be held on Saturday, October 25, 2014, from 9:00am until 3:30pm at Wesley College’s Peninsula Room, in the du Pont College Center, 120 No. State Street in Dover, DE.  Parking is available in the lot at Fulton and Bradford Streets.
The symposium is free and open to the public. Luncheon is available for $10. Registration is at 8:30am.  Preregistration is available by calling Tom Welch at 302-632-1803 or by email at  
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Primary sponsors include the Caesar Rodney Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Wesley College History Department, the Delaware Historical Society, the Delaware State Society of the Cincinnati and the American Revolution Roundtable of Northern Delaware.

Co-sponsors include the Friends of the Delaware Public Archives, the Claymont Historical Society, the Friends of Old Dover, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the Friends of Belmont Hall, the Duck Creek Historical Society, and the 1st Delaware Regiment. Gifts have also been made by Ginger Trader, Troy Foxwell, Claudia Onkean, Tom Welch, the James Family, and Kim Burdick.