Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Next Meeting: January 20, 2016

"The Battle of Great Bridge: The South's Bunker Hill," Norman Fuss

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: November 18, 2015

"Washington and Hamilton," Tony Williams

Prior to Broadway and Hollywood’s creation of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison as The Odd Couple, America’s Founding Fathers included their own “odd couple” of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton---two very different men who shared similar visions on American independence and how to govern the newly created United States.

“You can’t imagine two more disparate characters than Washington and Hamilton,” said author Tony Williams at the November 18, 2015 meeting of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond. Williams is the co-author along with Stephen F. Knott of the recently published book entitled Washington & Hamilton: The Alliance That Forged America.

“George Washington was a Virginia planter who served in the House of Burgesses, married a rich widow and even started a war---the French and Indian War,” said Williams. “Alexander Hamilton was an illegitimate child born in the West Indies whose father abandoned him, whose mother died when he was 13 years old and whose guardian killed himself. And yet at the age of 14 he went to work, running a Caribbean mercantile house where he showed his native genius.”

Williams noted that Washington was one of the first Founding Fathers willing to go to war with Great Britain. As early as April 1769, Washington wrote to his friend and Fairfax County neighbor George Mason, “That no man should scruple, or hesitate a moment to use arms in defense of so valuable a blessing, on which all the good and evil of life depends.”

“Washington is in the forefront and probably given far less credit than some of the other early American patriots such as Samuel Adams,” said Williams. “He is a man of virtue, a man of action and doesn’t let anyone violate his rights.”

Washington and George Mason were early allies during the boycott of British goods and in writing the Fairfax Resolves, which stated that the colonists were entitled to the rights of Englishmen and the “natural rights of mankind” when it came to such issues as American self-government and taxation.

In October 1772 Hamilton left the West Indies for America, thanks to the efforts of several affluent Caribbean friends who wanted Hamilton to get a college education. At first Hamilton considered Princeton but decided against it when John Witherspoon, Princeton’s president, would not permit Hamilton to take the large volume of courses necessary for him to graduate in only two years. As a result, Hamilton elected to enroll at King’s College (modern-day Columbia University).

While at King’s College, Hamilton joined the Sons of Liberty and became a strong supporter of the American patriotic cause. As a collegian he gave speeches in front of large crowds and wrote influential pamphlets about natural rights, not just the rights of Englishmen.

Shortly after war broke out at Lexington and Concord, the Continental Congress named Washington as commander of the Continental Army. “They selected him because he was from Virginia, he had war experience and they admired his character. Congress felt they could trust Washington---unlike a Julius Caesar,” said Williams.

Washington and Hamilton first met each other during the 1776 British attack on New York City. According to Williams, the Americans were “outgunned and outgeneraled”. British troops along with the British fleet quickly overwhelmed the American defensive positions on Long Island and Manhattan. What remained of the battered Continental Army fled New York City and retreated across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania.

However, a brave American artillery captain came to Washington’s attention for covering several American retreats. In January 1777 Washington invited the 20-year-old Hamilton to join his staff, and in March 1777 Hamilton was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

From early 1777 until 1781 Hamilton served Washington as one of his most trusted staff officers. Washington depended on Hamilton for writing letters and preparing staff reports, and for his organizational skills. He even gave Hamilton broad authority in dealing with more senior American officers (such as Horatio Gates) in Washington’s name. The two became close friends and developed somewhat of a father/son relationship until an incident took place which nearly wrecked their friendship.

In early 1781 Hamilton passed Washington on a flight of stairs at their command headquarters, and Washington asked to speak with Hamilton, who responded that he would be able to talk right after he delivered an important letter. After delivering the letter Hamilton proceeded toward Washington’s office when he ran into the Marquis de Lafayette, and talked with him briefly before heading once again toward Washington’s office. When Hamilton reached the top of the stairs, he encountered an angry George Washington who criticized Hamilton for keeping him waiting for 10 minutes. Washington accused Hamilton of treating him with disrespect, and Hamilton replied by tendering his resignation from Washington’s staff.

“Washington sent an intermediary to arrange a meeting with Hamilton to smooth things over but Hamilton refused,” said Williams. “He stayed on for a month or two but then resigned. Hamilton had been itching for a field command.”

During the Summer of 1781 Washington gave Hamilton a light-infantry command which consisted of a New York battalion. Shortly afterward the Continental Army, along with the French Army, marched to Yorktown where they trapped the British Army under the command of Lord Charles Cornwallis. During the late stages of the Siege of Yorktown, Hamilton asked Washington for permission to lead an attack on one of the British redoubts. Washington consented.

“Hamilton fool-heartedly jumped onto another man’s shoulders and launched himself onto the enemy parapet with his saber slashing,” said Williams. “His troops captured the British redoubt and Hamilton achieved his military glory.”

After Cornwallis’ surrender the American Revolution entered a slow period when both sides basically held their defensive positions while peace negotiations continued. By 1783 America’s revolutionary furor was dying and the Continental Army was not getting paid by Congress. In what has become known as the Newburgh Conspiracy, a group of senior officers met for the purpose of planning how to put pressure on Congress to pay them or face the consequences of a possible military mutiny. 

“I would argue that the way Washington handled the Newburgh Conspiracy was Washington’s finest hour or one of his finest,” said Williams.

An important meeting of American senior officers took place in Newburgh, NY on March 15, 1783. Washington surprised his subordinates by attending, and gave a speech about the importance of the army to remain loyal to Congressional authority and not to undertake any sort of a coup against the existing civilian government. His subordinates listened politely but most of them were not moved by Washington’s advice. Then in a dramatic moment Washington pulled out of a pocket his pair of glasses, put them on and apologized by saying, “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray, but almost blind, in the service of my country.”

At that, Washington’s subordinates were so moved by their commander’s declining vigor that some of them wept, some of them hugged each other and all of them pledged their loyalty to Congress. The Newburgh Conspiracy collapsed.

After Great Britain and the newly created United States signed a peace treaty, the British Army and many Loyalists evacuated New York City in November 1783. Shortly after they left, Washington announced his retirement from the military and told his army farewell on November 26, 1783 in New York City. Even though Alexander Hamilton and his family lived in a house on Wall Street only a few blocks away from Washington’s farewell luncheon with his subordinate officers, Hamilton did not attend the event.

“This shows the distance to which they had drifted apart,” said Williams. “In fact if not for the Constitutional Convention a few years later, they probably would have gone their separate ways.”

In May 1787 the Constitutional Convention began its deliberations in Philadelphia. Washington was elected president of the Convention, and Hamilton served as one of New York’s delegates. During the course of the Convention, the two of them got reacquainted over dinners at Philadelphia taverns and learned how much they had in common when it came to their views on a strong central government, and the need for a constitution which granted more central authority. The Convention produced such a document on September 17, 1787.

The state-by-state campaign to ratify the Constitution frequently involved very bitter debate, especially in Virginia and New York. “Hamilton was a one-man wrecking crew in support of the Constitution,” said Williams. “He wrote many of the Federalists essays, along with James Madison and John Jay.”

After ratification and the election of Washington as president, he appointed Hamilton as his secretary of the treasury.

“Almost from the start Washington agreed with Hamilton 99% of the time, especially on how to handle the national debt. When it came to cabinet meetings, Hamilton was the smartest guy in the room and probably the smartest Founding Father. The problem is that he let everyone know it,” joked Williams.

After Washington retired from the presidency he returned to Mount Vernon. Hamilton had resigned from the cabinet a few months earlier in order to continue his law career in New York City. Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. Hamilton died on July 12, 1804---one day after getting mortally wounded by Vice President Aaron Burr in a duel at Weehawken, NJ.

“Nearly all of the Founding Fathers agreed on one thing, and that was how unprincipled Aaron Burr was,” said Williams.

Williams closed his presentation by asking and answering the question---what could Hamilton have achieved politically had he not died when he did? “Not too much,” said Williams. “He was pretty much damaged goods in 1804. Hamilton had angered his fellow Federalists when John Adams was president, and especially in 1800 when Hamilton didn’t support Adams’ re-election efforts.”

Tony Williams serves as the professional development director at the Bill of Rights Institute, and program director of the Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute in Charlottesville. In addition to his book Washington & Hamilton: The Alliance That Forged America, Williams is also the author of the following four books on early America:

1. The Jamestown Experiment: The Remarkable Story of the Enterprising Colony and the Unexpected Results That Shaped America

2. The Pox and the Covenant: Mather, Franklin, and the Epidemic That Changed America’s Destiny

3. Hurricane of Independence: The Untold Story of the Deadly Storm at the Deciding Moment of the American Revolution

4. America’s Beginnings: The Dramatic Events that Shaped a Nation’s Character

Prior to Williams’ presentation the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond discussed the following topics:

1. President Bill Welsch announced plans for a round table field trip on April 2, 2016. John Maas and Mark Lender will lead a bus tour in the Richmond vicinity to sites related to Benedict Arnold’s Virginia raid.

2. President Bill Welsch said $400 was raised this year by the Round Table’s preservation fund toward this year’s preservation partner---Campaign 1776. He presented the Round Table’s $400 check to Lindsey Morrison, Fellow for Battlefield Preservation at the Civil War Trust. She thanked the Round Table for the contribution to Campaign 1776 and said that the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond is the first revolution round table in the nation to make a group donation toward Campaign 1776, which is the American Revolution subsidiary of the Civil War Trust.

--Bill Seward

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Thomas Jefferson Papers Available Online

The Massachusetts Historical Society has electronically archived many of Thomas Jefferson's papers. Included are the Farm Book, Garden Book, Notes on the State of Virginia, and hundreds of drawings. They are available online at

New American Revolution Blog

Phil Greenwalt wrote to inform us of a new blog--Emerging Revolutionary War-- which is modeled off of Emerging Civil War if you are familiar with that blog.  

The goal is to create a blog that is dedicated to sharing original scholarship, insight, and material on the American Revolutionary Era. I want to invite you and the round table to check it out at the link below:

Furthermore, if anyone at the round table would like to guest post, that is most welcomed too. Just send the post to this email address,, with any graphics and biographical information of the writer. 

Down the road they hope to develop a book series that would be the first book interested readers would pick up to discover the important and hallowed ground of the American Revolution.

235th Anniversary Commemoration of the Crossing of the Dan: February 13, 2016

The 235th Anniversary Commemoration of the “Crossing of the Dan” in 2016 will be held in The Prizery arts center and by the Dan River in South Boston, Virginia, beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 13.  The guest speaker will be Janet Uhlar, of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, author of Freedom’s Cost: The Story of Nathanael Greene.  That will be followed by the annual wreath presentations and a river crossing reenactment on the actual Boyd’s Ferry site.  The free event is hosted annually by the SAR, DAR, local Historical Society and others. 

2016 Meeting Topics and Speakers

The topics and speakers for 2016 have been added to the "Meetings" tab above.

ARRT-Richmond Announces the Winner of its 2015 Book Award

Thanks to Mark Lender for the following announcement:

The American Revolution Round Table—Richmond is pleased to announce that the winner of its annual Book Award for 2015 is Michael C. Harris’ Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777, published by Savas Beatie of El Dorado Hills, California.

The book is never closed on any historical subject, and there is always room for new interpretations as new evidence comes to light—and this is especially true in the case of subjects as complex as major military engagements.  The Battle of Brandywine, fought on 11 September 1777, is a classic example in this regard.   Brandywine is already the subject of several studies, but Michael Harris has significantly enhanced our understanding of this critical action by digging deeply into the original sources, finding new ones, and combining his findings with fresh new thinking.  In addition, Harris uses his thorough knowledge of battlefield terrain—he worked for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission at Brandywine Battlefield—to disentangle the various troop movements and explain how and why the flow of the combat developed as it did.  This is fine military history.

The result of Harris’ effort is a well-written and deeply-sourced narrative, the best yet on a battle with a profound impact on the course of the War for Independence.  Tactical developments and strategic implications mesh nicely in the author’s telling, and the story line clearly separates fact from accretions of myth and fiction that have attached themselves to the Brandywine chronicle over two centuries.  The battle was the largest general action of the war, and while it resulted in a British victory and the eventual loss of the de facto rebel capital of Philadelphia, it also revealed a growing competence in the Continental Army.  As Harris carefully explains, while the British flanking movement caught the rebels off guard, patriot troops did not fall apart.  They fought well at Birmingham Hill, their leaders adjusted to changing conditions, and their eventual retreat was not a rout.  The army that finally took up winter quarters at Valley Forge was battle-hardened and anything but a rabble.  Von Steuben did not have to start from scratch with his retraining regimen.

No doubt there will be other books on the Battle of Brandywine; but subsequent authors will have to acknowledge the scholarship of Michael Harris’ fine work.  Our readers appreciated the quality of the original maps, modern photographs, and well-chosen illustrations; they vitally compliment the text and help make the action of 11 September 1777 explicable.  And by the way, the footnotes are actually at the bottom of the page!  Thank you Savas Beatie!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

We're Back on Facebook!

We've had many questions lately as to our lack of presence on Facebook. Accordingly, we have reactivated our page there. This website will continue to be the main location to find all information about our round table. The Facebook page will contain meeting notices and other miscellanea.

You can find our page by searching for "American Revolution Round Table - Richmond" at the top of your Facebook page or simply follow this link:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Next Meeting: November 18, 2015

"Washington and Hamilton," Tony Williams

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 16, 2015

"The Battle of Hubbardton: The Rear Guard Action that Saved America," Bruce Venter

Sandwiched between the 1777 military actions at Fort Ticonderoga and Saratoga, the Battle of Hubbardton is far less known to students of American history, and yet it played a key role in America’s successful fight for independence.

“The Battle of Hubbardton was a tactical victory for the British but Seth Warner did a very credible job to form a rearguard and save America,” said historian Bruce M. Venter at the September 16, 2015 meeting of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond. Venter is the author of the recently published book entitled The Battle of Hubbardton: The Rear Guard Action that Saved America.

Venter added that as a result of this battle, most of Arthur St. Clair’s American forces were able to avoid a major battle with the British after a grueling retreat from Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. This enabled St. Clair’s forces to rejoin the northern Continental army under the command of Philip Schuyler, and to implement an American plan to slow down the invading British army under John Burgoyne by disrupting Burgoyne’s supply lines which stretched up to Canada.

Burgoyne began his campaign against America on June 16, 1777. The campaign was part of a three-pronged British strategy to isolate New England from the remaining American colonies by seizing control of three important New York waterways located near New England---Lake Champlain, Lake George and the Hudson River. Three British armies (Burgoyne from the north, Sir William Howe from the south and Barry St. Leger from the west) planned to advance via Lake Champlain, the Hudson River and the Mohawk River toward the common objective of Albany. Unfortunately for Burgoyne, Howe changed his campaign plans and headed the opposite direction toward Philadelphia, and St. Leger’s army was stopped at the Battle of Oriskany---approximately 100 miles short of Albany.

Burgoyne’s army numbered approximately 9,000 troops which included British, Germans, Loyalists and American Indians. Most of the German troops were Brunswickers, not Hessians.

The Burgoyne invasion route basically followed the one used approximately one year earlier by Sir Guy Carleton when he advanced as far as Valcour Island on Lake Champlain before turning back to Canada. Burgoyne’s first major objective was to defeat the American garrison which defended Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, located opposite each other on Lake Champlain.

Defending Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence were approximately 2,000 Continental troops and militia units under the command of Arthur St. Clair. Earlier St. Clair had received permission from Philip Schuyler, the commander of the northern Continental army, to withdraw from Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence if St. Clair felt threatened by a much larger enemy army.

On July 5, 1777 Burgoyne’s army maneuvered troops and cannons onto Sugar Loaf Hill (later called Mount Defiance). From this position Burgoyne could easily bombard both American defensive positions. When the Americans spotted British troops and guns on Sugar Loaf Hill, they made immediate plans to abandon Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. On the night of July 5 the American retreat began.

St. Clair’s garrison retreated via land and water. He sent a small number of troops, along with all of the women and his sick troops, south on boats via Lake Champlain to the town of Skenesborough (today known as Whitehall). He also marched most of his troops down the Mount Independence-Hubbardton military road toward Castleton, VT. From there, St. Clair hoped to march toward Schuyler’s main army which was located at Fort Edward, NY.

Early on the morning of July 6 two American deserters came into contact with Burgoyne’s troops, and told them about the American evacuation of Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. Burgoyne made immediate plans to pursue the retreating Americans. While Burgoyne took most of his troops south on Lake Champlain toward Skenesborough, Burgoyne instructed Simon Fraser to take 850 troops from his advance corps and pursue the retreating Americans on the Mount Independence-Hubbardton military road.  

Serving as the three battalion commanders under Fraser were Robert Grant, John Dyke Acland and Alexander Lindsay, Earl of Balcarres. Following the British forces a few miles behind on the Mount Independence-Hubbardton military road were the 1,100 German troops under the command of Friedrich Baron von Riedesel. 

Commanding the American rearguard on the overland retreat was Seth Warner, who had successfully commanded the rearguard one year earlier during the American retreat from Canada. Serving as subordinate commanders under Warner were Ebenezer Francis and Nathan Hale (not the famous American spy who gave his life for his country).

While most of St. Clair’s troops completed their July 6 march to Castleton and encamped there overnight, some of his troops fell so far behind that they bogged down Warner’s rearguard. The delay got to the point where Warner decided to encamp overnight in the Hubbardton area with his 900-man rearguard plus approximately 300 American stragglers.

Shortly after dawn on the morning of July 7, Fraser’s lead troops caught the encamped Americans at a creek called Sucker Brook. At approximately 7:00 a.m. the British battalion under Robert Grant attacked the Americans who were just across the creek, and drove them back to a defensive position now known as Monument Hill. During the creek attack Grant was killed.

As the Americans formed a defensive line on Monument Hill, Fraser elected to pursue the British attack immediately rather than wait for Riedesel to bring up his troops from a few miles farther down the military road.

“Fraser was a brigadier general while Riedesel was a major general,” said Venter. “Fraser probably wanted to attack immediately while he was in command rather than wait for Riedesel to arrive with his men and possibly take overall command of the British and German troops.”

The British succeeded in driving away the American defenders on Monument Hill, who then retreated to a small unnamed hill which contained a high log fence. The fence was shaped similar to a long inverted “U” and provided the Americans with a strong defensive position.

“Fraser thought he could push the Americans off the hill,” said Venter. “Instead the Americans made a stand, even though they were being flanked.”

While the British and American troops slugged it out near the high log fence, the key moment in the Battle of Hubbardton took place when Riedesel arrived and immediately deployed his advance guard of 180 troops. He sent them to the left of the British troops in such a manner that they flanked the right side of the American line and poured into the American right rear.

“As Riedesel’s troops arrived, his band played music and his troops sang hymns,”said Venter.

The American left side became flanked by British troops as well, creating a total collapse on both sides of the American defensive line. During the last American stand, Francis was killed. The American rearguard fled in disarray but they had fought hard for nearly three hours, and had prevented the British from destroying St. Clair’s main forces, who were on their way to joining Schuyler’s northern Continental army at Fort Edward.

“Casualties numbered almost 200 of Fraser’s men, the cream of the British army. I think these losses hurt at Saratoga,” said Venter. “The Germans didn’t have many casualties, and the Americans actually lost more soldiers but many of them were stragglers and drunks. I don’t see the American casualties as critical as for the British.”

In summarizing the Battle of Hubbardton, Venter blamed Fraser for being too impetuous in his pursuit of the retreating Americans. “He pursued the Americans with no food and no medical support, and after the battle he was unable to move his troops anywhere for 24 hours,” said Venter.

Most of Warner’s rearguard and St. Clair’s forces regrouped and would continue to fight Burgoyne’s army until it surrendered at Saratoga on October 17,1777. “This was a campaign of logistics, and Burgoyne was a cavalryman. Logistics killed him,” said Venter.

Bruce Venter is president of America’s History, LLC, a tour and conference company that conducts trips to American Revolution battlefields and historic sites. The company also holds a nationally-recognized conference on the American Revolution each year in Williamsburg, VA.

Venter serves as first vice president of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond, and holds master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Albany. He and his wife Lynne own a summer house on Lake George, NY---approximately 50 miles from the Hubbardton, VT battlefield.

In other business conducted at the September 16 meeting of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond, the following topics were discussed:

1. Mark Lender, the chairman of the Roundtable’s book award committee, announced that the winner of this year’s award is Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777 by Michael C. Harris.

2. Other members of the Roundtable made various announcements regarding upcoming meetings, seminars and college courses that relate to the American Revolution and American history in general.    

--Bill Seward

Friday, September 11, 2015

New Valley Forge Visitor Center Installation

Yorktown Victory Center to Examine George Washington's Life and Legacy

George Washington, his life and legacy, will be the theme of a series of evening public lectures this fall at the Yorktown Victory Center, with authors of recent books speaking at 7 p.m. on September 24, October 20, October 27 and November 10.

The series begins on Thursday, September 24, with “George Washington’s Second Revolution,” presented by Edward J. Larson, author of “The Return of George Washington, 1783-1789.”  Larson, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for History, holds the Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University and is a Fulbright Senior Scholar.  His lecture will take the audience from Washington’s spectacular victory at Yorktown to his inauguration as the first United States president eight years later and show the retired general’s critical role in uniting the states and forging a more perfect federal government under the Constitution. 

Historian and archaeologist Philip Levy will speak Tuesday, October 20, on “George Washington and the Cherry Tree: A New Look at a Story You Thought You Knew.”  Levy is the author of “Where the Cherry Tree Grew: The Story of Ferry Farm, George Washington’s Boyhood Home” and the forthcoming “George Washington Written Upon the Land: Nature, Memory, Myth, and Landscape.”  He co-leads the excavation of Ferry Farm and is a professor of history at the University of South Florida.

On Tuesday, October 27, Jonathan Horn will present “Robert E. Lee: The Man Who Would Not Be Washington,” about the brilliant soldier bound by marriage to George Washington’s family but turned by war against Washington’s crowning achievement, the Union.  Horn, a former White House speechwriter, is author of “The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee’s Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History.”

In “George Washington’s Journey” on Tuesday, November 10, T.H. Breen will recount how during the first months of his presidency George Washington boldly transformed American political culture by organizing a journey to all 13 original states, a demanding tour designed to secure the strength and prosperity of a fragile new republic.  Breen is author of the forthcoming book, “George Washington’s Journey: The President Forges a New Nation.”  He is the James Marsh Professor at Large at the University of Vermont and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Thomas Jefferson International Center at Monticello in Charlottesville.
Admission to the lectures is free, with advance reservations recommended by calling (757) 253-4572 or emailing

About the Yorktown Victory Center 

The Yorktown Victory Center, located at Route 1020 and the Colonial Parkway (200 Water Street), chronicles the American Revolution, from colonial unrest to the formation of the new nation, through indoor exhibits and historical interpretation at outdoor re-creations of a Continental Army encampment and Revolution-period farm.  Under the administration of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, a Virginia state agency, the museum is undergoing a transformation with a new facility and expanded exhibits and will be renamed American Revolution Museum at Yorktown when the project is complete in late 2016.  The Yorktown Victory Center remains open to visitors daily.  For more information, visit or call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838. 

Cowpens National Battlefield Archaeological Search

A new archaeological search at Cowpens National Battlefield has produced artifacts believed to be from the Battle of Cowpens fought during the Revolutionary War.

The George Washington Symposium, November 6-7, 2015

To commemorate the 240th anniversary of Washington taking command of the united colonies’ fledgling army, Mount Vernon’s annual George Washington Symposium will examine a number of fascinating topics associated with this critical point in history. Join leading historians, curators, and academics for an enlightening look at major influences on the first commander in chief’s life in 1775, from his experiences fighting in the French and Indian War, to the formation of the Continental Army. Explore how the General outfitted himself to lead, the books he read about the art of war, and how his steadfast companion in life became one of the cause’s endearing secret weapons.

2016 Meeting Dates

For your advance planning, the dates of our 2016 meetings are listed at the bottom of the page under the "Meetings" link above. The topics and speakers will be added when available.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Meeting Notes: August 12, 2015

"The Traitor's Epiphany: Benedict Arnold in Virginia and His Quest for
Vindication," Mark Lender

“A genuine American ogre who was one of the best combat leaders during the American Revolution.”

That’s how historian Mark Lender summarized the military career of Benedict Arnold at the August 12 meeting of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond. Lender also described in detail the January 1781 British raid which Arnold led against Virginia, and Richmond in particular.

Shortly after Arnold turned traitor at West Point in September 1780, Sir Henry Clinton put Arnold in charge of an upcoming British raid against Virginia. For months Clinton had looked at the Chesapeake Bay, not for the purpose of conquering Virginia,  but to disrupt American supplies headed to the Carolinas. Other than Lord Dunmore’s raid against the Norfolk area in December 1775 and a brief British landing at Portsmouth later in the war, British troops had never occupied Virginia. Clinton also wanted to send British and Loyalist troops to Virginia for the purpose of rallying more Americans to the British/Loyalist cause.

“Clinton hoped that an Arnold-led expedition could persuade Virginians to see the futility of the Revolution, and would encourage soldiers to desert American military units and join the King’s Army---the way Arnold did,” said Lender.  

Since the British strategy for attacking Virginia had both military and political goals, Clinton’s orders to Arnold were to attack magazines and other military targets but to show restraint in dealing with private property. The orders also called for Arnold to establish a British base in Portsmouth. Arnold was ordered to avoid any risky military conflicts with the Americans unless his chief subordinates, Lieutenant Colonel John Simcoe and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Dundas, agreed with his decision.

“Clinton was a good officer but a very cautious man,” said Lender. “He wondered whether Arnold might switch sides again as a double-agent. Therefore he instructed Simcoe and Dundas to seize command from Arnold if at any point they feared Arnold was committing treason. Arnold didn’t know anything about the orders, called dormant commissions, which Clinton had given to Simcoe and Dundas.”

Arnold’s troops sailed from New York City and reached the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on December 30, 1780. Most of his fleet continued up the James River with approximately 1,200 troops.

Along the way Arnold tried to avoid conflict with enemy forces. On January 2, 1781 the British fleet drove ashore an American brig. Arnold sent a letter to the brig to cease fire and let his fleet pass, which the brig did.

Later at Hood’s Point, a defensive position overlooking the James River, Virginia militia fired on Arnold’s fleet. Once again Arnold tried to avoid a battle by ordering his fleet not to return fire. Instead he once again sent a letter to the enemy to cease fire. By the time the courier carrying the letter reached Hood’s Point, the Virginia militia had already abandoned it.

Arnold’s fleet proceeded up the James River to Westover Plantation where it docked. Arnold had breakfast with the owner of Westover Plantation, a widow named Mary Willing Byrd. She was a cousin of Peggy Shippen Arnold---his wife. On January 4 the British/Loyalists left Westover and began a 25-mile march to Richmond with approximately 800 troops.

“Richmond was all but undefended,” said Lender. “Everything was wide open to attack. Jefferson did the best he could with the time he had and moved many supplies out of Richmond to Westham, which is near today’s Huguenot Bridge. In fact Jefferson himself didn’t leave Richmond until only five hours before Arnold’s forces arrived. The City was in pandemonium.”

On January 5 Virginia militia made a brief stand in the City’s Church Hill neighborhood but soon dispersed. Arnold sent a public letter to the citizens of Richmond and Manchester which said that seizing supplies was a legitimate prize of war, however he was willing to pay half the market value for those supplies that were voluntarily surrendered by citizens to his troops. Any citizen caught with military supplies not voluntarily surrendered would receive no payment.

While in Richmond, Arnold’s troops also proceeded to seize and destroy military supplies and structures located on public property. There was some collateral damage to private property but Arnold’s troops tried hard to avoid destruction of tobacco and shipping. Arnold thought that Loyalists owned much of this private property, and also thought he might conduct a second raid on Richmond later that year and might need this property.

Arnold sent his cavalry under John Simcoe to seize and destroy the supplies at Westham. They also destroyed a foundry located in the area.

“Arnold’s command delivered a devastating blow to Richmond but he had deliberately tried to avoid private property destruction,” said Lender. “The written quotes from various Richmonders during that time period confirm this. In fact the Virginia militia and some city residents probably destroyed or stole more personal property during the aftermath of the raid than did Arnold’s troops.”

On January 6 Arnold’s troops left Richmond and marched back toward their ships docked at Westover. Along the way they stopped at Berkeley Plantation where they committed their only large-scale vandalism and theft of private property. Berkeley was the home of Benjamin Harrison, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and therefore regarded as a major political target. Arnold’s troops did not burn the house but they moved much of the furniture and wall hangings outdoors and set a large bonfire. They also burned barns, captured 40 slaves and seized horses and livestock.

Arnold’s men sailed from Westover on January 10 to Portsmouth where they established a British base of operations. When details on Arnold’s raid reached New York City, Clinton was very impressed with its success.

However, the raid failed on one major mission---the same one that plagued the British for most of the war. Virginia Loyalists did not flock to the King’s Army or publicly cheer the arrival of Arnold’s troops. Too many previous incidents where Loyalists publicly supported the British had resulted in persecution of Loyalists by their fellow Americans shortly after British troops marched out of an area they had raided or traversed.

By the middle of March 1781 while still camped in Portsmouth, Arnold concluded that Virginians and other Americans would never flock to the King in great numbers, and therefore he should strike at them as hard as he could. He also became aware of his public reputation of being regarded as a notorious traitor.

“Arnold had an epiphany,” said Lender. “He had tried hard to change the minds of Virginians but it wasn’t working. He finally realized that he would remain a traitor in their minds unless the British won the war.”

When British reinforcements arrived at Portsmouth in late March under the command of Major General William Phillips, he took the overall command from Arnold as the senior British officer. Arnold would continue to serve as a subordinate until June when Phillips died in Petersburg and Arnold took command for one week. When the British army under Lord Charles Cornwallis arrived, Cornwallis took overall command and Arnold returned to New York City.

“Arnold’s next command would be an attack on his home area of New London, Connecticut, “ said Lender. “New London would pay for Arnold’s epiphany.”

On September 6, 1781 Arnold led a British expedition which landed near New London and attacked Fort Griswold. When Arnold’s troops breeched the ramparts, the fort’s defenders tried to surrender but approximately 75 of them were killed. As for New London itself, Arnold’s troops set fire to its supplies, wharfs and warehouses. New London, located only a few miles from Arnold’s birthplace, was his last battle.

Mark Lender earned his PhD in history from Rutgers University, where he was a student under Dr. James Kirby Martin. Lender would later join forces with Martin to co-author the book entitled A Respectable Army. Lender has also authored Fatal Sunday, his forthcoming book on the battle of Monmouth. He and Martin are currently working on other studies which include Benedict Arnold. 

Lender is a retired history professor and administrator from Kean University in New Jersey. He is a member of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond, and serves as chairman of its annual book award committee.

During the business portion of the August 12 roundtable meeting, the following topics were addressed:

1. Roundtable President Bill Welsch welcomed approximately 45 members of the University of Richmond’s Osher Institute as roundtable guests. He also provided the guests with a brief history of ARRT-Richmond.

2. Osher Institute Director Peggy Watson thanked the Roundtable for inviting Osher and for their hospitality. She also provided a brief history on U of R’s Osher Institute.

3. Other brief announcements were made.

--Bill Seward

Next Meeting: September 16, 2015

"The Battle of Hubbardton: The Rear Guard Action that Saved America," Bruce Venter

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.

Please note the times. School is back in session so we will return to our usual dinner and meeting times.

University of Richmond campus map:

"The Road to Yorktown," John Maass, October 8, 2015

On October 8, 2015, at 6:30 P.M., John Maass will be speaking about his new book, "The Road to Yorktown: Jefferson, Lafayette and the British Invasion of Virginia," at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library Headquarters theatre, 1201 Caroline Street, in Fredericksburg, VA.

In 1781, Virginia was invaded by formidable British forces that sought to subdue the Old Dominion. Lieutenant General Charles, Lord Cornwallis, led thousands of enemy troops from Norfolk to Charlottesville, burning and pillaging. Many of Virginia’s famed Patriots—including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and Nathanael Greene—struggled to defend the commonwealth. Only by concentrating a small band of troops under energetic French general the Marquis de Lafayette were American forces able to resist British operations. With strained support from Governor Jefferson’s administration, Lafayette fought a campaign against the veteran soldiers of Lord Cornwallis that eventually led to the famed showdown at Yorktown.

Here is the link to the publisher's page:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Our 2015 Preservation Partner

Our preservation partner for this year is . . . . CAMPAIGN 1776!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the selection process!

The Revolutionary War Memoirs of Major General William Heath, Sean Heuvel

Sean Heuvel wanted to let us know about a book that he recently had published - The Revolutionary War Memoirs of Major General William Heath (McFarland, 2014).  As a distant relative of General Heath, he has long lamented that there was not a satisfactory version of his memoirs (first published in 1798 and re-released in 1901) in circulation.  For instance, the 1901 edition (which is the most common in print and online) has few annotations, hardly any illustrations, and provides no scholarly context that explores General Heath as a patriot leader and military commander.  However, working with McFarland, he was given the opportunity to produce an updated version of General Heath's memoirs that carries his story and legacy into the 21st century.  This updated edition includes some organizational tweaks to make the memoirs more readable (all outlined in the preface, of course), extensive annotations, about 30 vintage illustrations, and an extensive biographical introduction that incorporates some of the latest scholarship on General Heath.  Here is the link for the book on

While Sean thinks it is safe to say that General Heath was not one of the Continental Army's most brilliant combat commanders, he was a very effective military diplomat and administrator who contributed immensely to the war effort.  Also, even though he suffered some blows to his reputation during the war, he was a loyal Washington supporter throughout the conflict who always kept the faith. For those reasons, Sean hopes that this new book can help share his story with a new generation of Revolutionary War history enthusiasts.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Early American Music

If you are interested in Early American Music and live in/near Boston, Washington, DC, Pittsburgh, Annapolis, Yorktown (VA), Baltimore, Erie (PA), or Mount Vernon (VA), please consider yourself invited to attend a concert, workshop, or teacher institute (some are yet open) between now and September.
Here's the schedule:

Status Update: Conservation of American Revolution Documents at the Library of Virginia

According to Amy Bridge at the Library of Virginia, our 2014 adopted American Revolution documents have been conserved and are ready for digitizingThis project will also be featured in an upcoming issue of "Broadside," either the summer or fall. 

"Journal of the American Revolution, Annual Volume, 2015"

Todd Andrlik’s book, Journal of the American Revolution Annual Volume 2015, is now available and 

The book is offered by Westholme Publishing.   Bruce Franklin has become the premier publisher of American Revolution books and deserves your patronage.  

"The Battle of Hubberdton," Bruce Venter

At the last meeting, Bruce Venter’s new book was mentioned: The Battle of Hubberdton.  It comes highly recommended.  It’s here

New Video from Mount Vernon: "The Winter Patriots"

Two Articles from the Virginia History List About Yorktown

Here are articles from the Virginia History list about Yorktown.
An interesting dispute about history at Yorktown involving tobacco, slavery, and commemoration: 

Here’s a study that suggests that at least once a tobacco press was located not too far away at a waterfront location: 

"Jefferson's Flight from Monticello," June 20, 2015

June 20th, Saturday, Bus Tour - "Jefferson's Flight from Monticello"
On June 20, a bus tour sponsored by the Nelson County Historical Society will retrace Jefferson's flight from Monticello. History and Thomas Jefferson’s character can be brought alive by following his known travel routes. Nowhere is his character better appreciated or understood than during this historic flight from Monticello which began on the 4th of June 1781 as Tarleton’s troops entered Charlottesville intent on capturing the Virginia Governor and author of the Declaration of Independence.
Join Nelson County Historical Society members Dick Whitehead and Doug Coleman as they retrace Jefferson’s historic flight from Monticello through the now-neglected back roads of Albemarle, Nelson and Amherst Counties, ending at Geddes, the home of Hugh Rose where Jefferson and his family took refuge for several nights en route to Poplar Forest.  Points of interest: several historic ordinary sites; Fairmount Baptist Church - lunch break;  Cabellsville - site of the Colonial Era Amherst County Courthouse. - archaeologist on site to relate recent findings.
To make reservations and purchase tickets email or call 434-263-8400.   Tour cost - $30 per person and Society members $20 per person - bring your own lunch.  Parking at The Nelson Memorial Library, Lovingston, VA  9:00 AM - 4:00 PM. 

More information at

Francis Marion/Swamp Fox Symposium: October 23-24, 2015

Here’s  preliminary information from Carole and George Summers about the annual Francis Marion / Swamp Fox Symposium.

Near the anniversary of the success at Fort Watson 234 years ago, save the date & plan to come to the 13th Francis Marion/Swamp Fox Symposium, October 23-24, 2015, in Manning, SC.
   Topics to be included:
   Comparing & Contrasting Francis Marion and David Fanning
   The Spartan District
   Dorothy Sinkler Richardson Reflecting on General Richard Richardson
   Kings Mountain - The Rest of the Story
   Come to the Cow Pens!
   Analysis of the Bridges Campaign, starting at Wyboo through Correspondences
   The Aged Francis Marion Recalling his Best Memories
  Site: FE DuBose Campus, Central Carolina Technical College, I-95, Exit 122, Manning, SC
You're invited to register & participate  For October 23-24, 2015

"A Flock of Herons"

Harry Ward was recently featured in "The Richmond Times Dispatch" about his “flock of herons.”

Two Books on Peter Harrison

John Millar, a member of ARRT-Richmond, has been working since 1962 on the life of Peter Harrison (1716-1775), who died a few days after Lexington & Concord, essentially from the shock of it. He was arguably the greatest architect ever to have worked in America. John's work is now published in two books. The more expensive one is published by McFarland & Company, and is mostly text with only a few illustrations (The Buildings of Peter Harrison: Cataloguing the Work of the First Global Architect, 1716-1775, McFarland & Co., 2014). The less expensive one is mostly illustrations with only basic text, and is available from Thirteen Colonies Press (Peter Harrison, 1716-1775, Drawings). Either or both can be ordered from your favorite bookseller or Amazon. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Next Meeting: August 12, 2015

"The Traitor's Epiphany: Benedict Arnold in Virginia and His Quest for Vindication," Mark Lender

The meeting will be held in the Westhampton Room, Heilman Center (dining hall--building 34 on the campus map), University of Richmond, at 6:00 p.m. with dinner available for purchase in the dining hall beginning at 5:00 p.m. (We are still on our summer schedule.) It is not necessary that you purchase dinner in order to attend the meeting.

Note: This meeting was rescheduled from July. We will hold it in partnership with the University of Richmond's Osher Institute. Be sure to arrive early for the best seating!

University of Richmond campus map:

Meeting Notes: May 20, 2015

"Kidnapping General Charles Lee," Christian McBurney

Long before the creation of SEAL Team Six, Delta Force and the United Kingdom Special Forces, both the American and British armies already had their versions of special forces during the American Revolution.

One of the missions of these 18th Century special forces was to kidnap prime targets such as enemy generals. In December 1776 and July 1777, each side would succeed with daring overnight and early morning raids where they captured an enemy major general who was only half-dressed at the time of capture.

Christian M. McBurney described these two raids at the May 20, 2015 meeting of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond. McBurney is the author of the book entitled Kidnapping The Enemy: The Special Operations to Capture Generals Charles Lee and Richard Prescott.

At the time of his capture Charles Lee was second-in-command of the Continental Army. In fact he arguably possessed a more impressive military career up until this point than the Continental Army’s commander, George Washington.

Lee spent his early years in England and later went to a boarding school in Switzerland. After completing his education Lee joined the British army as a lieutenant and later fought in the French & Indian War. He was wounded in the 1758 failed British attack on Fort Ticonderoga.

Lee rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and retired from the British army at half-pay upon the 1763 conclusion of the war. A few years later Lee saw military action in Poland, Russia and Turkey where he served as an aide-de-camp to the Polish king. After returning to England when troubles began to brew between Great Britain and its American colonies, Lee became sympathetic toward America’s concerns and moved to Virginia in 1773.

When war broke out at Lexington and Concord, Lee volunteered his services to the American cause and hoped Congress would name him the commander of the Continental Army. Instead, Congress named him the third-in-command behind George Washington and Artemas Ward. When Ward resigned his commission a few months later, Lee moved up to second-in-command.

Lee never held a great deal of respect for Washington, and lost confidence in him during the New York campaign when Fort Washington’s American garrison was forced to surrender to the British. Lee had advised Washington to pull the garrison from the fort but instead Washington listened to other senior officers who recommended strengthening the garrison.

After the British forced a surrender of Fort Washington and crossed the Hudson River to capture Fort Lee, Washington retreated with the main body of his army toward Pennsylvania while Lee stayed north of New York City in the White Plains area with a small detachment.

As Washington retreated across New Jersey, he asked and then ordered Lee to rejoin the main army with his detachment. According to McBurney, Lee “dithered and delayed” in his efforts to rejoin the main army.

On December 12, 1776 while most of his troops were camped three miles away, Lee spent the night in Basking Ridge, NJ at what was called White’s Tavern. When Loyalists in the area learned of Lee’s whereabouts, they promptly informed a reconnaissance patrol of British dragoons under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William Harcourt and Cornet Banastre Tarleton.

Under the cover of darkness the British dragoons rode quietly toward the tavern, gathering information along the way from captured American soldiers whom they threatened with death if they didn’t cooperate. On the morning of December 13, 1776 the British dragoons surrounded the tavern, captured Lee and quickly rode off with him.

At first William Howe and King George III wanted to hang Lee as a deserter since he had served in the British army. When word of this possibility reached the Americans, they threatened to retaliate by hanging British officers if the British hanged Lee. Finally when Howe learned that Lee had honorably resigned his British army commission, he agreed to treat Lee as a prisoner-of-war.

Americans were shocked by Lee’s capture, and some of them decided to do something about it. William Barton, a Rhode Island lieutenant colonel who had risen from the rank of private at the beginning of the war, devised a plan to capture Major General Richard Prescott, the commanding general of a 4,000-man British army in Newport, RI. The Americans had a particularly deep hatred for Prescott because he was known for treating American prisoners-of-war very cruelly. 

On the night of July 10, 1777 Prescott and his small band of men rowed across Narragansett Bay in five whaleboats to Newport. They carefully avoided British naval vessels and landed in an area where they followed a small path which led them to the farmhouse where Prescott was spending the night. Then they surrounded the house, seized the sleeping Prescott and his aide-de-camp and returned to their boats. Prescott and his men managed to dodge British artillery fire as they rowed back across Narragansett Bay.

“Of course the British felt humiliated over a small party capturing Prescott under the noses of 4,000 British troops and the British navy,” said McBurney.

When word reached Washington about Barton’s successful capture of Prescott, he immediately offered William Howe an exchange of Prescott for Lee. At first Howe refused but later changed his mind. For Prescott his capture and later exchange were a repeat of what happened earlier in the war. During America’s invasion of Canada, Prescott was captured by the Americans in November 1775 and was exchanged in September 1776 for General John Sullivan.

As for William Barton, he ended the war as an American hero and a prominent citizen of Rhode Island. When Rhode Island finally ratified the U.S. Constitution on May 29, 1790, Barton was given the honor of riding to New York City to give the official news to President Washington.

Later in life Barton moved to Vermont and became a real estate speculator. He lost money and at one point he was accused of selling the same land to two different purchasers. After nearly 15 years of litigation Barton was ordered to pay $600 in damages, which he refused. As a result he was thrown into prison, and turned down requests from his family and close friends to pay the $600 judgment on his behalf.

“His pride wouldn’t let him back down,” said McBurney.

Barton spent 13 years in prison until the Marquis de Lafayette heard about his imprisonment while the Marquis was passing through Rhode Island on his American tour. Lafayette paid the judgment, and Barton was released from jail at the age of 77. During his imprisonment three of his children had died.

On October 22, 1831 Barton died at the age of 83---one of America’s last surviving Revolutionary War heroes.

Christian McBurney grew up in Kingston, RI. He is a graduate of Brown University and New York University School of Law, and is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Nixon Peabody LLP where he focuses on business tax law. He is a member of the American Revolution Roundtable of Washington, D.C. and currently serves as its secretary.

In addition to his book on the kidnapping of Charles Lee and Richard Prescott, McBurney’s other books are as follows:

1. Spies in Revolutionary Rhode Island

2. The Rhode Island Campaign: The First French and American Operation In the Revolutionary War

3. Jailed For Preaching: The Autobiography of Cato Pearce, a Freed Slave from Washington County, Rhode Island

4.  A History of Kingston, R.I., 1700-1900: Heart of Rural South County

Prior to McBurney’s presentation before the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond, the following business topics were discussed by the round table membership:

1. Various members announced several programs, meetings and events taking place in the near future across Virginia that relate to the American Revolution. Please see the ARRT-Richmond website for more details.

2. Mark Lender, Chairman of the ARRT-Richmond Book Award Committee, said the committee currently has nine candidates for the 2015 Book of the Year. Anyone wishing to nominate additional books may contact Chairman Mark.

3. Lindsey Morrison, Fellow for Battlefield Preservation at the Civil War Trust, gave a brief overview of Campaign 1776---a new preservation organization which is a division of the Civil War Trust. Campaign 1776 is dedicated to preserving America’s Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields, and is currently attempting to preserve a parcel that was part of the Battle of Princeton, NJ.

4. ARRT-Richmond President Bill Welsch said that five preservation candidates are under consideration as ARRT-Richmond’s 2015 Preservation Partner. In the near future President Bill will send an email with the list of 2015 preservation candidates to all ARRT-Richmond members who have paid 2015 dues. Each member will be ask to review the five candidates and to send back their email vote to President Bill.

5. President Bill Welsch reminded everyone that the July ARRT-Richmond meeting has been moved to August. 

--Bill Seward