Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Events: Daniel Morgan: A Revolutionary Life

Albert Louis Zambone, Charlottesville, VA, is the author of Daniel Morgan: A Revolutionary Life, scheduled for publication on December 12, 2018.

He has scheduled the following events for his book:

January 12, 2019, 2:00 PM: Book talk and signing at the Winchester Book Gallery, Winchester, VA

January 19-20, 2019: Book talk and signing at the Cowpens National Battlefield, as part of the annual anniversary commemoration 

May 23, 2019, Noon: Banner Lecture at the Virginia Historical Society

His book is available through Amazon:,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

Meeting Notes: November 14, 2018

'"To Bring the American Army under Strict Discipline': British Army Foraging Policy in the South," Greg Urwin

Our speaker, Greg Urwin (c.), with Penny Page and Mark Lender

Despite efforts by British army commanders during the American Revolution to discourage their troops from committing crimes against American civilians, the commanders’ efforts were usually unsuccessful.

Military historian Gregory J. W. Urwin outlined some of these crimes and the attempts to curb them at the November 14, 2018 meeting of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond. Urwin is a history professor at Temple University and is currently working on a social history of the campaign conducted by General Charles Cornwallis during the Spring and Summer of 1781 in Virginia.

“Shortly after the war many American newspapers were filled with accusations about Cornwallis’ army stealing property,” said Urwin. “He actually tried to exercise a policy of restraint because he knew it was important to try and win the hearts and minds of American civilians. His foraging parties in Portsmouth were largely respectful of private property and their treatment of women, and at Yorktown he invited the local people to bring food to his army and get paid for it.”

Unfortunately for many American civilians, British troops routinely stole from them--and worse. In fact American civilians first protested the plundering by British troops shortly after the war began at Lexington/Concord when the British retreated from these battles back to Boston. 

“Even when the British later won their military campaigns in New York and New Jersey, there was indiscriminate looting and rape of American civilians,” said Urwin. “This made even moderate Americans very angry with the actions of British soldiers.”

Urwin said that the bad British behavior continued in New Jersey through early 1777. Finally Sir William Howe tried to curb the looting and to portray his troops to New Jersey civilians as “liberators”. However according to Urwin, Howe’s orders against plundering “fell on deaf ears”. For example a British soldier chopped off a woman’s fingers in order to steal her rings.

After Sir Henry Clinton replaced Howe as the British army commander in Philadelphia he appointed Patrick Ferguson and John Andre to study how to curb plundering by British troops. The two aides quickly learned that the British army had a serious problem and a daunting task ahead of it to change troop behavior. In addition the senior officers feared that the troops who disobeyed their orders to stop plundering would later disobey other orders from their officers.

According to Urwin, the British logistical system failed to provide its troops with incentives to stop plundering and as a result, British foraging parties brought back smaller quantities of fresh food to their commissaries. In addition the British system would not allow its commissaries to reimburse Loyalists who were victims of British plundering as well.

Ferguson and Andre made various recommendations which British officers implemented to a certain extent. These recommendations included attempts by the British to purchase cattle from Loyalists, and to purchase supplies from American civilians with promissory notes which were backed by gold---not Continental dollars.

Another new policy sometimes implemented was the prohibition of foraging parties from entering American homes unless they were under the supervision of a British officer. In some cases British officers also posted sentries to protect public buildings and individual houses.

When Cornwallis took command of the British army in South Carolina, he appealed to his subordinate officers’ sense of duty when it came to disciplining their troops. After hearing mounting complaints from South Carolina civilians about the behavior of his troops Cornwallis not only urged subordinate officers to clamp down on crimes committed by their troops, but he personally assisted in the execution of two Loyalist soldiers who were found guilty of committing rape.

During Benedict Arnold’s British raid on Richmond in January 1781, he told Richmond’s civilians that they would receive half the market value of their supplies if they voluntarily turned them over to his army. He also allowed Virginia’s Loyalists to apply for full reimbursement. When William Phillips replaced Arnold as the British commander in Central Virginia, he issued an anti-looting proclamation to his troops.

Did these attempts by senior British officers to change the behavior of their troops make any difference as to how the British troops treated American civilians?

“In South Carolina, not at all. The civilians couldn’t be neutrals,” said Urwin. “However nothing toward civilians reached the horrors as it did in New Jersey earlier in the war.”

Gregory J.W. Urwin is the author of nine books and numerous articles and essays covering the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Indian Wars and World War II. He has lectured at the U.S. Military Academy, Naval Academy and Air Force Academy. Urwin also assisted Hollywood in the making of the Civil War movie classic "Glory."

Prior to the speaker’s presentation the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond covered the following topics:

1. President Bill Welsch made several announcements regarding upcoming American Revolution conferences. 

2. Election Chairman Rob Monroe presided over the nominations of officers and at-large members to the board of directors for the two-year term beginning January 1. After the nominations were closed the membership voted unanimously to support the slate of officers and directors who are shown on a separate posting on this website.

--Bill Seward

Friday, November 16, 2018

Next Meeting: January 16, 2019

"Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, The American Revolution's Lost Hero," Christian Di Spigna

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

CHRISTIAN DI SPIGNA is a writer based in New York City and Williamsburg, Virginia. A regular speaker and volunteer at Colonial Williamsburg, Di Spigna is an expert on the history of the era and educates a wide array of audiences.

Please plan on joining us!

University of Richmond campus map:

2019 ARRT Richmond Speakers and Topics

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Board of Directors Elected

Our Board of Directors was elected at our November 2018 meeting. The term of office is January 2019 through December 2020. Click on the "Directors & Bylaws" tab at the top of the page to view the listing.

2019 ARRT Richmond Dues & Information

Dues remain the same for 2019 and may be paid beginning in January. Information regarding dues and their payment can be found by clicking on the "Dues" tab at the top of the page.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Winner of the 2018 Harry M. Ward Book Prize

Larrie D. Ferreiro, Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016).

How important were the French and Spanish to the success of the American Revolution?  VERY, is the conclusion of 2018 Harry M. Ward Prize-winning author Larrie D. Ferreiro.  In his superb Brothers at Arms (a Pulitzer Prize finalist) Ferreiro makes an overwhelming case.  When the first shots of the War for Independence rang out, the patriots had no army, no navy, no common currency, no diplomatic standing, little manufacturing capacity, and little in the way of powder and the other sinews of war—and thus little hope against the far-superior military, political, and financial resources of the British Empire.  The Americans also lived in a world generally hostile to republics. So why did the French and Spanish help?  Ferreiro explains the complex international political scene that saw the two monarchies unite with the nascent republic in an alliance of convenience, each ally fighting Britain with its own agenda.  As Brothers at Arms shows, the alliance was decisive.  Together the French and Spanish (although during the war Spain, unlike France, never officially recognized the United States) covertly and overtly provided the modern equivalent of billions of dollars in direct financial aid, loans, arms, and matériel.  They also committed thousands of troops and ships against Britain in theaters around the globe, and they provided vital diplomatic support. “Instead of viewing the American Revolution in isolation,” as one reviewer has nicely put it, “Brothers at Arms reveals the birth of the American nation as the centerpiece of an international coalition fighting against a common enemy.”  No other historian has dealt so well with this complex and fascinating story--this an important book.

--Mark Lender