Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Meeting Notes: March 15, 2023

Administrative Items:

 1.      AART-R’s financial to support to other Revolutionary War organizations was discussed, including recurring contributions to the American Battlefield Trust and Crossing of the Dan. The membership present voted on and approved sending a donation to the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust for The Camden Burials.

2.     Mark Lender re-announced the 2022 Harry M. Ward Book Award co-winners:

a.     Winning Independence: The Decisive Years of the Revolutionary War, 1778-1781, author John Ferling

b.     Francis Marion and the Snow's Island Community: Myth, History, and Archaeology, author Steven D Smith

3.     Bill Welsch announced the planning of an October 14 (tentative) tour of Revolutionary War sites around the Newport News area. Details are to follow.

 Meeting Presentation:

William L. Kidder spoke on the Battle of Trenton, entitled "That Unhappy Affair at Trenton" based on his book Ten Crucial Days: Washington's Vision for Victory Unfolds available from the Fort Plain Museum Bookstore [].

The significance of the patriots' victory at Trenton was not forgotten in the ensuing years and two and a half years after the battle, it was Lord George Germain, the British Secretary of State for North America throughout the Revolutionary War, who remarked to the House of Commons on May 3, 1779 “all our hopes were blasted by that unhappy affair at Trenton. Germain shared a heavy amount of blame for Britain’s ultimate defeat by the American patriots under General George Washington.

While the American Revolution seemed on the verge of defeat, on December 25, 1776, Washington assessed the weaknesses and strengths of his situation as he moved his troops towards Philadelphia. He reacted to the complex situation and developments over the next ten days [December 25, 1776 through January 3, 1777] in ways not expected by the British military which became turning points for George Washington as America’s Commander-in-Chief and respect for American military capabilities against the world’s largest army.

Kidder walked through the events leading up to and through the turning point victory at the Battle of Trenton using a coalition of Continental soldiers, state and local militias, and local volunteers.

 Washington’s failed defenses and retreats during the New York Campaign [July to November 1776] that included the Battle of Long Island, the Battle of White Plains, and most seriously at Fort Washington. Washington’s command was in jeopardy. Enlistments were set to expire.

Washington’s forces retreated across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania to make a stand at defending Philadelphia, where the Second Continental Congress was meeting, and thereby allowed British control of New Jersey, The British commander, William Howe, had made a miscalculation and overextended his forces over a chain of winter garrisons, along the supply route from the stronghold at Staten Island southward to the Delaware River. At the southern end of the chain was the village of Trenton.

On December 8, 1776 Continental forces crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania for temporary sanctuary. On the morning of December 13, 1776, Major-General Charles Lee, second in command of the Continental Army, was captured by the British at Widow White's tavern, at Basking Ridge, New Jersey, during his troops’ slow march to help Washington. British-born Lee ranked next to Washington in command but believed he should have been named Commander-in-Chief because of his experiences as a British officer and services in European mainland armies. He spent 18 months as a prisoner. Major-General John Sullivan took over Lee’s command and continued the march to join Washington.

To rally his troops Washington planned a logistically complex surprise attack on the British garrison at Trenton that required his army to recross the ice jammed Delaware River. The route chosen for the main army’s crossing resulted in a longer march to Trenton because a patriot-friendly ferry point was chosen over a loyalist-leaning ferry point that was closer to the town. The Continental Army and various state militias led by George Washington attacked the winter quarters of a brigade on the morning of December 26, 1776. The Trenton garrison consisted of mainly German soldiers quartered in civilian houses throughout the village and commanded by German Colonel Johann Rall.

Colonel Rall made mistakes in both his defensive preparations around his garrison (no redoubts, no defensive plan) and his reaction to learning an attack was underway. Washington exploited British arrogance by leading his army, made up of Continental soldiers, state militia groups and volunteers, in maneuvers that humiliated His Majesty’s forces.

In just ten short days the course of history was changed. The Battle of Trenton was notable as the first open field success won by Washington. The victory at Trenton restored American morale and renewed confidence in Washington as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army thereby turning the tide of the Revolutionary War.

--Fred Sorrell

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Meeting Notes: May 24, 2023

The Round Table meeting was held in the Ukrop Auditorium located in the Robins School of Business, at the University of Richmond. Our own Randy Flood spoke on: "The Real John Graves Simcoe."

Randy is a member of our ARRT-Richmond and of the Williamsburg-Yorktown Roundtable, as well. He is also Host and Executive Producer of The Real American Revolution Multimedia Center & Consortium for Civic Education, located at; a nonprofit organization established to educate Americans and others about what really happened during our American Revolution.

John Graves Simcoe was born into a military family in England. He was well-educated and joined the military. He was deployed to America during the Siege of Boston in 1775.

In America, he was involved in the Northern (New York, New Jersey), Mid-Atlantic (Brandywine, Quinton’s Bridge, Crooked Billet, Monmouth), and Southern (Charleston, Blandford, Point of Fork, Spencer’s Ordinary, Yorktown) Campaigns from 1776 to 1781 

Simcoe commanded the Queen's Rangers in 1777, a Loyalist unit, and conducted successful “hit and run” raids in central New Jersey and along Virginia's Lower Peninsula.

Served with Cornwallis and Tarleton at Yorktown (Gloucester Point), then returned to New York and then England, due to sickness, and became a Member of Parliament.

Named 1st Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (which is geographically south of Lower Canada) in 1791. His legacies included government reforms, influencing the first abolishment of slavery in the British Empire, founding the City of York (Toronto) as the capital of Canada, establishing British civil law, trial by jury, the use of British Winchester standards of measure, a provision for jails and courthouses and others considered on the same scale was Washington’s legacies to America.

He strengthened Great Britain's defenses against potential French invasion during the part of the Napoleonic wars.

Simcoe was chosen to succeed Lord Cornwallis as Governor General of India, but died before he could take office.

Importantly, John Graves Simcoe was, in real life, the complete opposite of the psycho-maniac character that is portrayed in the fictional television series "TURN." Simcoe emphasized: training and instruction of his troops; support of local farmers; anti-marauding; taking of prisoners to prevent unnecessary bloodshed; the reading of all written orders to the rank-and-file at daily parade; and verbal instructions of officers as to what was required of them to eliminate possible misunderstandings.

Some of the significant events depicted in the series simply did not occur in real life.

--Fred Sorrell