A Student of History

February 23, 2012

Manassas Battlefield news

Filed under: Historic Places — John Maass @ 10:08 am

A little news on the Manassas National Battlefield and its future (from WTOP):

There appears to be growing support for a new road that would take traffic around the Manassas National Battlefield Park — a major tourist attraction in the capital region.

The Battlefield Bypass has now been placed on a long-range priority list by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

If it is built it would take traffic around the Manassas Battlefield, a concept that Park Superintendent Ed Clark says the National Park Service endorses.

The plan would include shutting down parts of Routes 234 and 29 that run through the battlefield.

“We’re really removing that from the heart of the battlefield when so many visitors go and moving it out to the periphery of the park,” Clark says.

The Manassas Battlefield attracts 650,000 visitors a year but they mix with substantial commuter traffic on Route 234 and Route 29.

“Once the battlefield bypass would be built, those roads inside the battlefield would be closed to through traffic, commuter traffic and it would only be park related traffic,” Clark says.

Several environmental groups oppose the bypass. They fear it is just the first step towards a Tri-County Parkway linking Prince William, Loudoun and Fairfax counties together, that could open up the countryside to more development.

The Virginia Dept. of Transportation reports that “the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) has approved the location for a new 10.4-mile north-south transportation link that would connect Manassas with the Dulles corridor. The location of the new road would be north of Interstate 66,  from the I-66 and Route 234 interchange to Route 50 in Loudoun County.”

Battle of 1st Manassas-1861

February 16, 2012

West Virginia Forts & Frontier Archaeology

Filed under: Early America,Historic Places,Wars — John Maass @ 10:17 am

Very interesting lecture in the Fall I may try to attend at Prickett’s Fort State Park (http://prickettsfort.org/):

Archaeologists Stephen and Kim McBride will give a general overview at 2:00 p.m. of forts within the defensive system of the French & Indian War, Lord Dunmore’s War, and the Revolutionary War, present some guidelines for research on forts, and present results of research on variations on the physical structure of forts, with more detailed examples from the Greenbrier Valley. Contact: Melissa May, 304-363-3030

The original fort was built at the confluence of Pricketts Creek and the Monongahela River in 1774, and provided a place of refuge from Indian attack for early settlers to the area. In addition to the reconstructed Fort, the state park features the Job Prickett House, built in 1859. The site is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

Ireland: Plan to protect Hill of Tara

Filed under: Historic Preservation,Ireland — John Maass @ 8:51 am

A conservation plan has been commissioned for the State-owned lands on the Hill of Tara by the Irish Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan. The minister, in collaboration with the Office of Public Works (OPW) and the Heritage Council, has commissioned the Discovery Programme to undertake the plan. Brian Lacey of the Discovery Programme said the structure of a conservation plan is quite specific. It is recognised internationally as an ideal formula for protecting heritage and managing change in important historic places. In the summer of 2010, the Discovery Programme and its partners at NUI Galway doubled the amount of geophysical surveys on the hilltop, revealing in the process what is almost certainly the previously unknown whereabouts of the medieval manor of Tara. Archaeological works to investigate the significant degradation of the covering of the Mound of the Hostages have been completed. The Mound of the Hostages, Duma na nGiall, is one of the most prominent monuments among the concentration of prehistoric sites on the Hill of Tara.
The Tara-Skryne Preservation Group (TSPG) has welcomed Minister Deenihan’s announcement of a conservation plan. Carmel Diviney of the group, which was formed during the M3 motorway controversy, said it is a most welcome announcement to all concerned about the long-ranging state of disrepair on the Hill.
“A much sought-after comprehensive plan of management will be put in place on these State-owned lands which will ensure the preservation of one of Ireland’s most important sacred, historical, mythological and cultural sites,” she said.

From The Meath Chronicle (1 February 2012), http://tinyurl.com/7lnb3gr.

Though best known as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, the Hill of Tara has been an important site since the late Stone Age when a passage-tomb was constructed there. Tara was at the height of its power as a political and religious centre in the early centuries after Christ. Attractions include an audio-visual show and guided tours of the site.

February 15, 2012

War of 1812 Symposium in Maryland

Filed under: Early America — John Maass @ 4:51 pm

In June 2013 there will be a War of 1812 symposium at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Details still being arranged, so check back here.

Here’s the official description of the event:

To recognize and celebrate two centuries of peace between the U.S., Great Britain and Canada following the War of 1812, the U.S. Naval Academy will be home to an international academic conference including programs for the general public. An exhibit, featuring the iconic Don’t Give Up the Ship flag, the British Royal standard taken from Fort York (Toronto) and other War of 1812 symbols from Great Britain, Canada and the United States will be displayed.


Battle of North Point, MD--1814


February 10, 2012

Jeremey Black Lecture in Richmond, Va.

Filed under: Early America,New books,Wars — John Maass @ 12:17 pm

At the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, Va.:

Fighting for America: The Struggle for Mastery in North America, 1519–1871
Wednesday, March 28 (noon)
By Jeremy Black

In his latest book, prize-winning author Jeremy Black traces the competition for control of North America from the landing in 1519 of Spanish troops in what became Mexico to 1871 when, with the Treaty of Washington, Britain accepted American mastery in North America. The story Black tells is one of conflict, diplomacy, and geopolitics. The eventual result was the creation of a United States of America that stretched from Atlantic to Pacific and dominated the continent. The gradual withdrawal of France and Spain, the British accommodation to the expanding U.S. reality, the impact of the American Civil War, and the subjugation of native peoples are all carefully drawn out. Jeremy Black teaches history at Exeter University in the United Kingdom. This lecture is cosponsored with the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Virginia.

Battle of Eutaw Springs, SC, 1781

On this date in history…

Filed under: Early America,Wars — John Maass @ 8:28 am

James Wolfe

On this date in history:

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War between Britain and Spain and also the French and Indian War, with France ceding Quebec to Great Britain.


February 9, 2012

Cedar Creek Battlefield Update

Filed under: Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 10:45 am


February 9, 2012

(Middletown, Va.) – During a news conference today at historic Belle Grove Plantation, the Civil War Trust announced its latest campaign to save battlefield land — a $1.3 million fundraising effort to the preserve 77 acres of hallowed ground on the Cedar Creek Battlefield in Frederick County, Va.

“The announcement of either one of these acquisition opportunities would be cause for excitement in the preservation community,” said Trust president James Lighthizer. “But the chance to simultaneously and permanently protect both of these sites is truly remarkable. Projects like this, which will give the public an opportunity to explore previously inaccessible historic lands, is why the Civil War Trust is in the preservation business.”

The two target properties, the Vermont Monument site and Rienzi’s Knoll, located on opposite ends of the battlefield, each represent a critical moment in the October 19, 1864 struggle — a Union victory that clinched Abraham Lincoln’s reelection to second term as President.

The Civil War Trust was joined at the news conference by representatives of a variety of entities involved in historic preservation at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park. Joining Lighthizer at the speakers’ podium were Bell Grove Plantation executive director Elizabeth McClung, park superintendent Diann Jacox, representatives of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and Laura Jeffords, daughter of former Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, as well as several former members of his staff.

“Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park is a partnership park, which exists because of our unique collaboration with a variety of preservation partners,” said Jacox. “This collaboration is perfectly illustrated by the Civil War Trust’s work to preserve these two iconic sites on the battlefield. Their latest efforts will help our visitors better understand the full scope and extent of the battle — particularly on the northern part of the battlefield, where no land associated with the Union counterattack had yet been saved.”

Kilpatrick agreed that the Trust’s campaign to save these two parcels will have a lasting impact, adding, “The Commonwealth of Virginia remains committed to ensuring that the irreplaceable sites that tell the story of the Old Dominion’s role in the Civil War are protected forever. Participating in landmark efforts like this one is an investment in both our past and our future.

The first property is a 12.5-acre tract near Belle Grove Plantation associated with the pre-dawn Confederate attack that overwhelmed an unsuspecting Union army. In a desperate attempt to buy time for the Northern lines to reform, a single brigade — outnumbered by some estimates 10-to-1 — was ordered forward into the Confederate advance and held its ground for a crucial half-hour. One regiment, the 8th Vermont, lost 110 of its 164 men in the brutal, often hand-to-hand fighting. Vermont’s heroic stand at Cedar Creek is often considered to be among the state’s finest hours during the Civil War. An enormous mural depicting the fighting hangs in the State House in Montpelier. A monument to the 8th Vermont, one of only three on the entire Cedar Creek Battlefield, sits on the property the Trust is seeking to acquire.

The second property covers 64.5 acres on the northern end of the battlefield, where no land has previously been protected, but where one of the greatest reversals of fortune in the Civil War took place. After retreating five miles, the situation looked bleak for the defeated and disorganized Union forces. It was then that Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, arriving after a brutal 13-mile ride to the sound of the guns, rallied his men and launched a devastating counterattack that nearly destroyed the Confederate army. The event was immortalized in Thomas Buchanan Read’s poem “Sheridan’s Ride.” The area where the improbable rally took place became known as Reinzi’s Knoll, after Sheridan’s horse — although the steed was renamed Winchester to commemorate his journey.

Acquisition of these two historic properties, which is expected to cost $1.3 million, would not be possible without the assistance of the American Battlefield Preservation Program (ABPP – an arm of the National Park Service) and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR). Virginia DHR has already announced a $224,000 Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund grant for the project, with a $337,500 grant expected from ABPP’s Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program.

Meanwhile, towards the acquisition of the Vermont Monument, the Trust will apply $415,000 in federal transportation funding allocated specifically for land preservation projects at Cedar Creek by former Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT) in 2005. Previously, the Trust was able to secure three other properties totaling 74 acres elsewhere on the battlefield, including two immediately adjacent to the Vermont Monument site, using grant funding from this source.

“To the people of Vermont, the blood spilled by our ancestors makes this truly hallowed ground,” said Jim Eismeier, Jeffords’s former administrative director. “Today’s announcement is the product of much effort stretching back across almost a decade and the culmination Sen. Jeffords’s vision for the protection of land deeply important to him and his state.”

In addition to the Cedar Creek properties, the Trust is currently engaged in fundraising efforts to save significant battlefield properties at Bentonville, N.C., Fredericksburg, Va., Gaines’ Mill, Va., Perryville, Ky., Mill Springs, Ky., and Shiloh/Fallen Timbers, Tenn., as well as an ambitious national campaign to protect hallowed ground during the Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration. To learn more about these active fundraising efforts and the Trust’s ambitious sesquicentennial preservation initiative, Campaign 150, please visit http://www.civilwar.org/campaign150.

Did the Founding Fathers Lay the Foundation for Civil War?

Filed under: Early America — John Maass @ 9:43 am

This question is addressed in the Journal of Colonial Williamsburg, in an issue from 2011.

The piece was written by Barksdale Maynard. He is the author of five books on American history, including Woodrow Wilson: Princeton to the Presidency.

The opening:

Whether America’s founders could have sown seeds of a more perfect union without dooming a following generation to reap the whirlwind of civil war is a question yet on the minds of the nation’s historians. Could anything have been done to avoid the bloodbath that took the lives of 2 percent of America’s population? It’s a staggering figure: 2 percent in today’s terms would mean the deaths of everybody in Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. We usually think of nineteenth-century events—the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Dred Scott decision—when we consider what precipitated the crisis. But the roots of the conflict go back further, back to the formative years of the United States.

War of 1812 and National Defense

Filed under: Canada,Early America,Wars — John Maass @ 9:09 am

My friend Dr. Michael Crawford over at the Navy’s history shop (formally, the Naval History and Heritage Command) recently gave a talk on the War of 1812, covered in this article at the DoD website.

An exerpt:

The War of 1812 was a watershed moment in the nation’s development of a strong national defense system, a military historian said this week, as it provided justification for building up the Navy and changed the nation’s attitude toward strengthening the central government.

Michael Crawford, a senior historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command, made that observation Feb. 7 during a “DOD Live” bloggers roundtable.

February 8, 2012

2012 Tours of Early American Military History

Filed under: Early America,Historic Places,Wars — John Maass @ 9:12 am

America’s History LLC has announced a number of interesting 2012 tours related to early US military history, some of which I list below.  They can be reserved by calling 855-687-4478.

Battle of Cowpens, 1781

  • The War of 1812 in Maryland

Dates(s): April 19, 2012 to April 19, 2012

Location: Baltimore, MD

Description: Offered in conjunction with the Company of Military Historians Annual Conference – led by John Quarstein

  • Bombs Bursting in Air: The War of 1812 in Virginia and Maryland

Dates(s): June 13, 2012 to June 16, 2012


Description: including Fort Norfolk, St. Michaels, Fort McHenry, North Point, the USS Constellation and more – led by John Quarstein

  • Defending the Southern Frontier: The Cherokee War of 1759-61

Dates(s): June 27, 2012 to June 30, 2012

Location: Knoxville, TN

Description: including Fort Loudon, Cherokee Overhills, Cane Creek Massacre, Nequassee Mound, Tesuntee Old Twon and Cowhowee battlefields, Kittuwha and more – Led by Dan Tortora

  • Howe vs Washington: The Philadelphia Campaign of 1777

Dates(s): August 22, 2012 to August 25, 2012

Location: East Chester, PA

Description: including Brandywine, Germantown, Paoli, Valley Forge and more – led by Edward Lengel and William Welsch

  • Burgoyne’s Saratoga Campaign of 1777

Dates(s): September 12, 2012 to September 15, 2012

Location: Lake George, NY

Description: including Fort Ticonderoga, Mount Defiance, Hubbardton, Bennington, Fort Ann, Fort Edward, Skenesborough, Diamond Island, Saratoga and more – Led by Douglas Cubbison and Bruce Venter

  • Great Commanders Series: Greene vs Cornwallis

Dates(s): October 31, 2012 to November 4, 2012

Location: Charlotte, NC

Description: includes Cowpens, Kings Mountain, Guilford Courthouse and much more – led by Josh Howard

Saratoga, 1777


“The War Called Pontiac’s, 1763-2013”

Filed under: Early America,Wars — John Maass @ 7:07 am
Battle of Bushy Run, Pa., 1764

Just saw this on H-Net Announcements, a 2013 conference on Pontiac’s Rebellion immediately following the French and Indian War. This will be held in April at Philadelphia, the McNeil Center to be exact.  Here are some details from the announcement:

The McNeil Center for Early American Studies invites paper and panel proposals for a conference on “The War Called Pontiac’s, 1763-2013,” to be held in Philadelphia, 4–6 April 2013.

The 250th anniversary of what has long been known as “Pontiac’s War” offers scholars an opportunity to reexamine the conflict and its impact on the history of North America. The ambiguous role of the Ottawa leader Pontiac and widespread scope and the varying aims of other Native participants in the conflicts of the mid-1760s defy easy categorization,
a problem well summed up by Francis Jennings’s phrase, “The War Called ‘Pontiac’s.’” Many contemporary British observers and combatants sought some conceptual clarity by casting the blame on French-inspired treachery. Many Native people located the treachery among the British. In the mid-nineteenth-century, Francis Parkman constructed an epic tale
of a single charismatic Indian leader and the last gasp of a doomed people. More recent work offers a much more complex interpretation of an inter-Native movement grounded in Native spirituality and aiming to regain status as well as land for its Native participants in the new geopolitical world after the Seven Years War.

Accordingly, this conference encourages broad reexaminations. Possible topics  include—but  are not limited to—discussions of any relevant theater of war, the participation of particular Native groups or individuals, colonial and imperial responses, immediate repercussions or long-term effects, subsequent historiography and changing perceptions,
new attempts at synthesis, or fresh frameworks for understanding.  Confirmed participants include Colin Calloway, Gregory Evans Dowd, Eric Hinderaker, James H. Merrell, Jane Merritt, and Daniel K. Richter. The program committee is chaired by Laura Keenan Spero.

Proposals are welcome for papers of approximately thirty pages in length, which will be pre-circulated to all conference participants. Suggestions for complete panels will also be considered, but the organizers reserve the right to accept, reject, or reassign individual papers.

Please submit proposals of approximately 600 words, along with curriculum vitae, to mceas@ccat.sas.upenn.edu no later than 16 April 2012. Accepted panelists will be notified by mid-May 2012; papers will be due for pre-circulation no later than 1 February 2013. Some support for participants’ travel and lodging will be available.

Sir J. Amherst, British Commander in No. America during Pontiac's War

For some background on Pontiac’s War go to Ohio History Central.


February 7, 2012

General Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution in the South

Filed under: Early America,The Academy,Wars — John Maass @ 1:55 pm

General Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution in the South will be published by the Univ. of South Carolina Press in August 2012. 

One of the essays is by me, written back in 2006, entitled “With humanity, justice and moderation”: Nathanael Greene and the Reconciliation of the Disaffected in the South, 1780–1783.  Here’s the description:

A major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, Nathanael Greene has received historical attention as a commander who successfully coordinated the actions of seemingly disparate kinds of soldiers—regular Continental troops, militiamen, and partisan guerrillas. He has often been acclaimed as the second most important military figure of the Revolution, behind George Washington. General Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution in the South offers new perspectives on Greene’s leadership of Continental troops, his use of the mounted troops of South Carolina partisan leaders Thomas Sumter and Francis Marion, his integration of local militia into his fighting force, and his proposal that slaves be armed and freed in return for their military service.

During the first five years of the War of Independence, Greene served in the North as General George Washington’s most trusted subordinate. Through successes, failures, and hard-earned experience, Greene learned that mobility, logistical support, and effective civil-military relations were crucial components of eighteenth-century warfare, and especially of a successful revolution. He applied these lessons as commander in the Southern Department, where he led one of the most startling turnabouts in American military history, reversing a rigid British occupation and saving American liberty in the South. This collection of essays provides an assessment of the most important period of Greene’s military career. Editors Gregory D. Massey and Jim Piecuch have compiled essays from distinguished scholars and written a joint introduction demonstrating how Greene’s actions shaped the war in the South and deepening our understanding of Greene’s role in winning American independence.

And here’s the first paragraph from my essay:

The struggle for American independence in the southern states was principally a civil war after the British decided to concentrate offensive operations there in late 1778.  While there was a traditional military contest between regular armies in the field, the primary conflict was a bloody internecine struggle between Loyalists and rebels marked by plundering, property destruction, violence and murder. These concurrent conflicts created great difficulties for Patriot military and civilian leaders in the nascent southern states in their attempt to establish political legitimacy through the restoration of order and stability.  No American leader was more aware of these challenges than Major General Nathanael Greene, the Rhode Islander who assumed Continental command in the South in December 1780.  The need to rebuild the southern states was of paramount importance to Greene, who recognized the necessity of ending uncontrolled violence among the citizenry.  Greene and other Patriot leaders had to balance the need for an end to the chaos through some reconciliation with the region’s Loyalists as the war ended, with the strong desire among many Whigs to seek violence, retribution and property confiscation against their enemies.  Greene consistently sought to limit the retributive violence and calls for vengeance.  He worked to foster a spirit of conciliation in order to bring peace, prosperity and order to the South.  This position, however, was not universally shared by all supporters of the American cause, which often frustrated Greene’s efforts to ensure leniency toward Loyalists during the war’s final years.

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.