- Ph.D.’s in history are finding plenty of work outside the academy, but surprisingly few of them in public history. I don’t think graduate programs encourage candidates to consider careers in public history as much as they should.
- Possible remnants of the Rev War’s first day have turned up in Massachusetts.
- Oldest living War of 1812 widow tells all.
- Another Civil War movie is in development.
- Mort Kunstler talks about the research for his Hunley painting.
- National Parks Traveler asks readers to name their favorite Civil War park. Personally, I think Gettysburg’s pretty hard to beat.
Tag Archives: Revolutionary War
This weekend the DAR is dedicating a marker to Gen. Horatio Gates at Trinity Church in New York. Gates was buried somewhere in the churchyard, but the exact location of his grave has been forgotten.
These days Gates is most famous for two things: his plummet from the hero of Saratoga in 1777 to the laughingstock of Camden in 1780, and his association with the Conway Cabal’s attempt to sabotage Washington’s command. It only took a few years, a series of disastrous miscalculations, and a generous dose of narcissism to send his career into a tailspin. He’s sort of like the M. Night Shyamalan of Rev War generals.
A few items for your edification as you kiss your summer goodbye.
- Joel McDurmon argues that David Barton failed to make his case in The Jefferson Lies. The reason this is noteworthy is because McDurmon’s piece is posted at the American Vision website. This organization calls for a nation “that recognizes the sovereignty of God over all of life, where Christians apply a Biblical worldview to every facet of society. This future America will be again a ‘city on a hill’ drawing all nations to the Lord Jesus Christ and teaching them to subdue the earth for the advancement of His Kingdom.” It’s pretty interesting to see Christian Reconstructionists taking Barton apart. (Hat tip to John Fea)
- A few months ago Connecticut rolled out a $27 million tourism marketing campaign organized around the slogan “Still Revolutionary,” which “speaks to Connecticut’s deep roots in the founding of this country and reminds us that we still have that independent, revolutionary spirit,” according to Gov. Daniel Malloy. It’s a little odd, therefore, that Fort Griswold (site of the 1781 Battle of Groton Heights and one of the state’s most important Rev War attractions) is conspicuously absent in the ads that have been released so far. It’s the thought that counts, anyway.
- In a new book, Robert Sullivan does for the Revolutionary War in the middle states what Tony Horwitz did for the Civil War in the South.
- Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg is getting a new museum, slated to open next July.
- An Illinois Lincoln fan is heading out on a cross-country trip to read the Gettysburg Address from the steps of every state capitol. If my reckoning is correct, that adds up to about an hour and forty minutes of actual speaking time.
- Speaking of Lincoln, the folks at Simon & Schuster know an opportunity when they see one.
In the fall of 1778 a large force of Indians, most of them Shawnees, laid siege to Fort Boonesborough in central Kentucky. The fort held out, but the siege provides some pretty nifty examples of military ingenuity.
Native American attempts to capture frontier garrisons were usually pretty straightforward affairs, with a party of warriors surrounding the walls and firing from cover along with attempts to fire the structure with torches or flaming arrows. At Boonesborough, the Indians got creative. The Kentucky River ran parallel to the fort’s rear wall and about sixty yards away from it. The attackers decided to tunnel into the bluff along the stream and dig a mine toward the settlers, either to gain access to the interior or to set off a powder charge under the walls. The defenders heard the digging and saw the river’s water turn muddy, and figuring out what was up, they set to work on a counter-mine. The Indians’ tunnel collapsed before reaching the fort, but it was still a pretty interesting approach to frontier warfare.
The whites inside the fort developed a few tricks of their own, thanks to the ingenuity of Daniel Boone’s brother Squire, who built a makeshift cannon out of gum wood bound with iron wagon wheel strips. The second shot blew the barrel apart, prompting derisive shouts from the attackers. (One notable thing about participants’ recollections of the siege was the frequency of verbal insults traded between the two sides.) Not the most effective of weapons, but the bang did cause a party of Indians to “skamper perdidiously,” as Daniel Trabue put it.
Another of Squire Boone’s inventions proved more effective during the siege when he managed to fashion squirt guns out of rifle barrels to douse the Indians’ torches. I’ve never been able to figure out exactly how these things worked, but apparently some type of piston was involved. This guy was like an eighteenth-century MacGyver.
So, who’s up for an experimental archaeology project?
Some new and upcoming titles I find worthy of note:
- A biography of George Rogers Clark. It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a full Clark bio, so this is good news.
- A new collection of essays on Nathanael Greene’s campaigns in the South
- An examination of the men who accompanied Benedict Arnold to Quebec…
- …and a book about the woman who helped him turn traitor
- What did Burgoyne’s surrender do? Maybe not all that much.
- Collection of firsthand Redcoat accounts
- A look at the Pennsylvania Associators
- Finally, it’s not the Rev War, but it’s pretty darn close—a history of Dunmore’s War.
I’m going to be completely broke by the end of the year.
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.
They’ve brought in an archaeologist from across the pond to look for remains of the 1778 siege. I went there a few years ago; it’s a neat site.
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.