At least one writer in Boston is a little miffed because Philadelphia will be home to the new Museum of the American Revolution. Personally, I think Philly is the better option, just because it’s more centrally located and because it was the capital.
Besides, Boston already has so many great early American sites that maybe it’s time to share the love a little. New England is the only American region I haven’t visited yet, but when I finally go there, it’ll be a multi-week orgy of historical sightseeing the like of which mankind has yet to witness.
This might surprise you, but I think a good third-runner-up home for the museum would be Charleston. Think about it: Almost one-fifth of all American combat deaths in the war were in South Carolina during the war’s last years, and there were probably more armed clashes there than in any other state with the possible exception of New Jersey. (My source for these claims is John Gordon’s book on Rev War battles in the Palmetto State.) Of course, two things you don’t want near your artifacts are humidity and hurricanes, but I’m in favor of anything that will shave a few hours off my drive when this thing opens.
Check out this New York Times article on the growth of black membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. The new chapter in Queens is the first one started by an African-American woman.
We’ve come a long way since 1939, when the DAR refused to let contralto Marian Anderson perform at Constitution Hall. That refusal famously prompted Eleanor Roosevelt to resign her membership and led to a public concert at the Lincoln Memorial. (The DAR invited Anderson to perform a benefit concert at Constitution Hall in 1942.)
Daniel Eagen considers the state of American Revolution movies and doesn’t see much cause for optimism.
Gen. David Palmer thinks so:
Changes in technology over the centuries, as well as differences in geography and resources, make comparisons seem apples and oranges. However, it is feasible to measure how well a general did with what he had to work with and considering the opponents he faced. In that regard, Washington was an absolutely superb strategist, the best the United States has produced, ever.
Personally, I wouldn’t go that far; in fact, I think one of Washington’s own subordinates, Nathanael Greene, was a superior strategist. But I would agree that Washington was a gifted strategical thinker, able to balance purely military factors with larger political considerations.
Palmer makes his case in a book published last month.
Here and here. Personally, I’m more interested in the collections and the interpretation than the exterior. I’m hoping they don’t slight the campaigns in the South.
If you’re into video games, you’ve probably heard that the third installment of the wildly popular Assassin’s Creed series is set during the American Revolution. I’m not sure what a member of an eleventh-century Islamic order is doing in eighteenth-century Boston, but the folks behind the game apparently did their homework.
The first time I heard anything about this sect was in a college class on the medieval Middle East, when my professor assigned Bernard Lewis’s The Assassins. Now every kid with a video game console is familiar with them; it’s the Velociraptor-Chamberlain effect at work, I suppose. How many questions about the Assassins do you think the guides at Colonial Williamsburg will be getting because of this?
It had the unenviable distinction of making the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the eleven most endangered sites in the country. Here’s an article out of Philadelphia about the ongoing tussle over proposed housing on the battlefield.
Some folks in Cleveland, TN have commissioned a portrait of the town’s namesake, Revolutionary War hero Benjamin Cleveland of North Carolina. Don Troiani will be doing the painting. The 300-lb. Cleveland commanded the Wilkes County militia at King’s Mountain and persecuted backcountry Tories with a zeal bordering on fanaticism. As far as I know, there aren’t any contemporary likenesses of him, so this will be the first attempt at an accurate depiction.
My favorite anecdote about Benjamin Cleveland involves the capture of two horse thieves. Cleveland hanged one and then offered the other a choice—he could either join his partner at the end of a rope or take a case knife, cut off his own ears, and never show his face in that neck of the woods again. The guy took the knife, sharpened it on a brick, gritted his teeth, and set to work. To quote the Joker in The Dark Knight, “Even to a guy like me, that’s cold.”
Speaking of the Carolinas, renowned Palmetto State historian Walter Edgar is retiring. He’s a guy who takes public history as seriously as he takes scholarship, so here’s hoping he keeps writing and speaking.
Arnold as depicted in a 1776 print. From the Anne S.K. Brown Collection of Brown University via Wikimedia Commons
As I continue trying to catch up on my reading backlog, I’ve just finished Benedict Arnold’s Army: The 1775 American Invasion of Canada During the Revolutionary Warby Arthur S. Lefkowitz. It’s a fine campaign study, thoroughly researched and compellingly written. I’d recommend it to anybody interested in the Revolution.
Arnold’s march across the Maine wilderness is the sort of stuff of which legends are made, as is the dramatic nighttime assault he and Richard Montgomery launched against Quebec. The failed attack cost Montgomery his life and Arnold a wound in the leg—his first leg wound, actually, since he caught another one at Saratoga.
The Quebec expedition is not one of the Revolution’s better known incidents, which is a shame and also a little odd. After all, the march was much longer and far more arduous than the Overmountain Men’s 1780 expedition to defeat Ferguson, as well as Washington’s retreat across New Jersey in late 1776. Its relative obscurity alongside other Revolutionary episodes may have something to do with the fact that the attack on Quebec didn’t succeed, but I can’t help but wonder whether Arnold’s eventual treason might have something to do with it. He was a remarkably audacious and inspiring combat commander. When reports of his small army’s trek to Canada reached the Americans, they lauded him as a modern Hannibal; five years later, they were calling him an American Judas. Had his Saratoga wound been fatal, he probably would’ve joined Montgomery and Daniel Morgan in the pantheon of Revolutionary heroes.