Terry Golway added a delightful dimension to his discussion of his superb book, Washington's General, Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution: humor. He did not portray himself as an expert on the American Revolution. Instead he told us he was a writer who became intrigued with Greene as a fascinating historical figure while he watched Liberty! The American Revolution. This was nice listening for Ron Blumer, who wrote the script, and Tom Fleming, who wrote the companion volume. Mr. Golway added with a grin that he got even more interested when he learned that no one had written about Greene for fifty plus years. Presto! He was Greene's biographer.
More seriously, our speaker gave us an insightful exploration of this Quaker who was drawn to things military virtually from birth. Nathanael did not let a youthful injury to his right leg, which left him with a slight limp, stop him from his dreams of martial glory. He also utilized the political connections of his influential family to vault from private to brigadier general in one breathtaking leap.
Mr. Golway also talked with candor Greene's about 1774 marriage to beautiful Catherine Littlefield. It was a stormy liasion from the start; Caty loved to flirt and Nathanael did too. They regularly threatened each other with infidelity but Mr. Golway thinks they remained faithful. He mentioned that one evening Caty danced for three consecutive hours with George Washington but neither Martha nor Nathanael exhibited any alarm.
In the question and answer period, our speaker exhibited a thorough knowledge of Greene's military career, especially his astonishing success in restoring American control of the Southern states after the 1780 defeat of Horatio Gates's army at Camden. Golway dealt deftly with Greene's strategy and tactics, leaving us all with the impression that he may not have started as an expert on the Revolution but he now definitely qualifies as one. After the applause, there was a rush to buy copies of his handsome book.
We were treated to three trenchant book reviews by knowledgable members. Mike Harris led off with The Tumultuous Election of 1800 by John Ferling. The book is obviously a labor of love. The 215 pages of text are backed by no less than 647 footnotes. The theme is the emergence of party politics in the new republic. "Vehemence and viciousness," to quote Mike, "became the order of the day." But Mike found grave faults with the footnotes. There are virtually no primary sources. Frequently gossip is presented as fact. He found particular fault with Ferling's assumption that Jefferson was the father of several children by Sally Hemings, his slave and his late wife's half sister. He also faulted Ferling's obvious bias against Alexander Hamilton, who is referred to as "the New Yorker" and "the Monarchist." Ferling's treatment of Aaron Burr is even more superficial. The volume is part of a series called "Pivotal Moments in American History."
Dr. Joanne Grasso gave us an enthusiastic estimate of Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts. The author presents us with high profiled women from 1775 through the federal period. Among her choices are Eliza Pinckney of South Carolina, Caty Greene, whom our speaker also profiled, and Abigail Adams, wife of you know who. Some, such as Ben Franklin's daughter, Sally, and Margaret Livingston, who saw her New York mansion burned, yet stubbornly stayed on the property and rebuilt it, are not well known. Another Livingston, John Jay's wife Sarah (daughter of New Jersey governor William L.) was lady-like but very strongminded. It was said that Jay did nothing without her consent. Summing up, Joanne said readers will come away from this book realizing that the amazing Revolutionary generation was both male and female.
John Tsigakos gave us a lawyerly opinion of Jefferson's Vendetta: The Pursuit of Aaron Burr and the Judiciary by Joseph Wheelan. Mr. Wheelan concludes that Aaron Burr was neither a traitor nor a villain. He never intended to separate the western states from the Union. He only wanted to seize Texas from Mexico. Wheelan accuses Burr's fellow plotter, General James Wilkinson, of turning on Burr to conceal his long dependence on money from the Spanish secret service. Wheelan hails the presiding judge, Chief Justice John Marshall, for insisting on a strict interpretation of the Constitution's requirement of two witnesses to an overt act of treason. Jefferson comes off as a vindictive man, determined to destroy Burr because he threatened his plan to make James Madison his presidential successor. Overall, John was pleasantly surprised by the book's lively style, sound research and bold opinions. He recommended it highly.
The Round Table recently lost two valued members. One, North Callahan, was one of the RT's founders. He died at his home in Tennessee. Peter Agnew served as our treasurer for many years. He died at his home in Wisconsin. The Chairman, The Board of Governors and the members extend their sympathy to the grieving families.
Under that resounding title, Round Tabler Noelle Conrad, who is an educational specialist at the National Park Service, is launching a tremendously impressive six day symposium on our favorite subject at Valley Forge, from July 9-15. The lucky attendees will be high school teachers of history. Among those involved are Round Tabler Tom Fleming, who will make introductory remarks at the opening reception, and Cynthia Copeland, who will tell the guests the exciting things the New York Historical Society is planning to do to widen the historical perspectives of both teachers and students. The event is sponsored by the Center for the American Revolution at Valley Forge, the New York Historical Society and the National Park Service. The keynote speaker on July 10 will be noted historian Gary Nash, who will talk about "The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of American Democracy and the Struggle to Create America." His speech, scheduled for 1 p.m., will be open to the public. So if you're in the vicinity of Valley Forge on that day, consider joining the audience.
For the next five years, a group of determined historians will be holding meetings and making speeches to convince New Yorkers that their state should be christened "The French and Indian War State." Governor George Pataki has created a French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commission with orders to carry out a series of "re-enactment tourism events" and the study of the war from kindergarten through grade 12 in the state's schools. "The battles of the French and Indian War," the governor declared, "were the driving force for inspiring the values and ideals that led to the successful drive toward American independence and the birth of freedom and democracy in the New World."
Broadside regrets omitting an e in John Burke's email address. For those who want to continue the discussion of how John Andre was captured and by whom, you can write to John at proseedtec@AOL.com. Apologies, John!
While we are on the subject, Tom Fleming's friend, Bill Fleming, has done further digging on Charles Morgan, the man whose gravestone started our controversy about who captured Andre, among other things. Bill persuaded a local historian to put together a package of everything that is known about Morgan. At the turn of the century, newspaper clippings confirm that Morgan was remembered in and around Liverpool (near Syracuse) in upstate New York as the captor of Andre and also as the man on whom James Fenimore Cooper modeled Harvey Birch, the hero of his novel, The Spy. Alas, there is no documentation for either of these claims to fame. So the mystery continues -- and maybe approaches impenetrability. Perhaps we can seek help at a forthcoming conference at Marist College in the last week in September to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the plot to betray West Point. Round Tabler Willard Sterne Randall, author of the best biography of Arnold yet written, will be one of the featured speakers. See what you can find out, Will!
For more than two centuries, the waters of Lake Champlain have hidden the remains of a marvel of 18th Century engineering -- a bridge built by 2500 sick and hungry Continental soldiers at Fort Ticonderoga. Now a piece of the bridge sits in the preservation laboratory at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. "It connects you right to the Revolution," says the museum's director, Art Cohn.
The bridge was constructed in March and April 1777. Thousands of huge pine logs were skidded onto the ice and notched together. The soldiers weighted them with rocks, cut holes in the ice and sank them to the lake bottom. By spring, 22 caissons, some up to 50 feet tall, reached the lake's surface. They were joined by a 16 foot wide deck that linked Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence in what is now Vermont. When General John Burgoyne and his army appeared before Ticonderoga in late June 1777, the British placed cannon on nearby Mount Defiance, forcing the American defenders flee. The bridge was used to evacuate Mount Independence and was destroyed by the British when they retreated after Burgoyne's defeat. The bridge was forgotten until 1983, when divers discovered the caissons. Last year, a 26 foot beam weighing about 1800 pounds floated free and was pulled to the shore. It now resides in the laboratory, where it is being treated by wrapping it in a plastic tarp for part of each day. The huge relic will eventually be returned to Ticonderoga for exhibition in its new visitors center.
One of our members came across this startling look of war's heartbreak while reading A Son of Thunder, Henry Maier's biography of Patrick Henry. At the battle of Saratoga, Henry's twenty year old son, John, was an artillery captain. After the battle he walked among the dead, lingering over the bodies of men he had known. He drew his sword, broke it into pieces and sank into a profound depression. At the end of the winter he resigned his commission and Henry had to send a servant to bring the melancholy ex-soldier home.
Jeff Dacus, a history teacher in the state of Washington, visited Michie's Tavern in Charlottesville Va. where historic tea was being sold in twelve inch bricks, covered with Chinese characters. He asked us: is this on the level? We referred him to our grand master of Revolutionary trivia, Treasurer Jim Davis. An answer was instantly forthcoming. Jim told Mr. Dacus to google the Illinois and Wisconsin Fur Company. Scroll down the left side to "possible bag findings." Click "tea brick" -- and you can purchase a 2 ounce tea brick, just like the ones those awful Indians threw into Boston harbor. Jim says tea was usually shipped in brick form in those days.
In April, the Royal Welch Fusileers captured Trenton -- and no one said a word. The American version of the famous regiment, commanded by the Round Table's Peter Ford, occupied the Old Barrarcks Museum on April 2-3. They joined in greeting Roger Hagist, editor and annotator of A British Soldier's Story: Roger Lamb's Narrative of the American Revolution. Lamb was a color sergeant in the 9th Foot. He was captured at Saratoga in 1777 and marched to Virgina with the rest of Burgoyne's army. Escaping, Lamb made his way to New York, where he joined the Royal Welch -- only to be captured again at Yorktown in 1781. Should Roger be considered a jinx?
Joyce Appleby, emeritus professor of history at UCLA, recently scolded historians and the rest of the country for ignoring a truly important date: March 1, 1780. That was the day the government of Pennsylvania became the first in the world to pass a law against slavery. The British are usually credited with this accomplishment, thanks to Parliament's decision to ban slavery in the West Indies a half century later. But on March 1, 1780, Pennsylvania, a sovereign state in the U.S. confederation, voted slavery out of existence. The law did not call for immediate abolition. Children of slave women born after March 1, 1780 would have to serve their masters until they were 28. But no child born after that date could be permanently enslaved.
His name was William Jones, a farmer from Middlesex, Virginia. In 1775 at the age of 25 he, his brother Churchill and their wives settled on land in the Old Dominion's heavily forested Wilderness, leasing 642 acres which they named Ellwood. Churchill, widowed in 1777, joined the Continental Army, but it was William, at home, who would truly begin the Jones' journey through history. A small knoll exists just north of Ellwood, perfect for observation by commanding officers. And it was here, in 1781, that Major General Lafayette would pitch his headquarters tent. While awaiting reinforcements from Mad Anthony Wayne, on their way to Yorktown, the Marquis' horses consumed a field of timothy, and yet, Jones supplied the troops with 700 pounds of beef. Lafayette never forgot the kindness, and breakfasted with him at Ellwood during his 1824-25 grand tour of the United States.
Ellwood was inherited by Jones' daughter, Betty, in 1845. She married James Horace Lacy, and Ellwood received another name: Lacy House. It was with this new name that the Jones family continued their journey. In 1863, their home became a field hospital for Confederates during Chancellorsville, and it would be the now Major Lacy, who would bury Stonewall Jackson's arm on his property. This would be enough history for anyone, but the Jones' were not finished: in 1864, the knoll occupied by Lafayette became the headquarters of U.S. Grant (in fact, it is now known as Grant's Knoll) and Lacy House became the headquarters of General Gouverneur Warren. The Jones homestead is now being restored by the National Park Service and the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield.
Four players hit Grand Slams in the "Batter Up" Quiz. The principle revolutionaries who have baseball playing descendants are: John Adams (Todd Zeile); Ethan Allen (Ethan Nathan Allen); and John Paul Cobb (who served with Francis Marion) & Thomas Willis Cobb (a Washington aide) who are related to Ty Cobb.
Massachusetts Men: 1. What are the two American Revolution events which link John Adams and Robert Treat Paine? 2. What singular distinction does Francis Akeley have in American Revolution history? A free dinner to those who answer both questions correctly.