A Student of History

June 27, 2012

NJ’s New Bridge Landing Threatened

Filed under: Early America,Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 8:05 am

In northern New Jersey a Revolutionary War site is in danger due to neglect:

The site is New Bridge Landing, and funding cuts may have a big impact on maintaining the site, including the Steuben House.

New Bridge Landing was the site of a pivotal bridge crossing the Hackensack River, where General George Washington led his troops in  retreat from British forces. The area is now a  New Jersey historic site in portions of New  Milford, River Edge and Teaneck in Bergen  County, New Jersey. In the early morning hours of November 20, 1776, Lieutenant General Charles
Cornwallis  led a British and Hessian army of about 2,500 soldiers across the Hudson River to New Dock  for an attack against Fort Lee, then defended by about 900 soldiers. Washington led his 2,000 troops from Fort Lee in a ragged retreat through present-day Englewood, New Jersey and Teaneck across the Hackensack River at New Bridge. The hasty withdrawal of the American garrison across the Hackensack River at New Bridge preserved them from entrapment on the narrow peninsula between the Hudson and Hackensack Rivers. Washington continued his retreat through early December, passing through Princeton on the way towards and across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.

See more here.

Steuben House

Steuben House, NJ

June 26, 2012

Dunmore’s War, 1774

Filed under: Early America,New books,Wars — John Maass @ 3:51 pm

New book coming in December from Westholme Publishing:

Known to history as “Dunmore’s War,” the 1774 campaign against a Shawnee-led Indian confederacy in the Ohio Country marked the final time an American colonial militia took to the field in His Majesty’s service and under royal command. Led by John Murray, the fourth Earl of Dunmore and royal governor of Virginia, a force of colonials including George Rogers Clark, Daniel Morgan, Michael Cresap, Adam Stephen, and Andrew Lewis successfully drove the Indians from the territory south of the Ohio River in parts of present-day West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. Although it proved to be the last Indian conflict of America’s colonial era, it is often neglected in histories, despite its major influence on the conduct of the Revolutionary War that followed. In Dunmore’s War: The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era, award-winning historian Glenn F. Williams explains the course and importance of this fascinating event. Supported by primary source research, the author describes each military operation and illustrates the transition of the Virginia militia from a loyal instrument of the king to a weapon of revolution. In the process, he corrects much of the folklore concerning the war and frontier fighting in general, demonstrating that the Americans did not adopt Indian tactics for wilderness fighting as is popularly thought, but rather adapted European techniques to the woods.

As an immediate result of Dunmore’s War, the frontier remained quiet for two years, giving the colonies the critical time to debate and declare independence before Britain convinced its Indian allies to resume attacks on American backcountry settlements. Ironically, at the same time Virginia militiamen fought the biggest battle of Dunmore’s War under command of a king’s officer, delegates to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia decided on a united resistance to Parliament’s heavy-handed Coercive, or “Intolerable” Acts that threatened representative government in all the colonies. Before another nine months passed, Virginia became one of the leading colonies in the move toward American independence. Although he was hailed as a hero at the end of the Indian campaign, Lord Dunmore’s attempt to maintain royal authority put him in direct opposition to many of the subordinates who followed him on the frontier. Before being driven from Virginia in 1776, he notably organized the “Royal Ethiopian Regiment” composed of slaves who were promised freedom if they deserted their rebel masters and entered military service to the crown.

GLENN F. WILLIAMS is a historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C. He is author of U.S.S. Constellation: A Short History of the Last All-Sail Warship Built by the U.S. Navy and the awardwinning Year of the Hangman, about the 1778 Sullivan-Clinton campaign against the Iroquois, also available from Westholme Publishing.

June 11, 2012

Civil War Battlefield Grants

Filed under: Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 5:51 pm

National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis today announced the award of more than $3.8 million in grants to help with land acquisition at six Civil War battlefields.  Grant projects include easement purchases at Cross Keys, Virginia ($181,125); Tom’s Brook, Virginia ($25,000); Buckland Mills, Virginia ($3,350,060); and fee simple acquisition at Mill Springs, Kentucky ($90,800); South Mountain, Maryland ($149,000); and Bentonville, North Carolina ($45,325).

 “We are pleased to provide land acquisition grants to help safeguard these important American Civil War battlefields,” said Director Jarvis.  “Preserving these significant American sites as symbols of individual sacrifice and our national heritage for future generations is an important way to honor the courage and service of our nation’s military, especially as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.” 

The grants were made from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) to help states and local communities acquire and preserve threatened Civil War battlefield land outside the boundaries of National Park units.  Priority was given to battlefields listed in the National Park Service’s Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields (CWSAC Report).  Funds were awarded based on the property’s location within CWSAC-defined core and/or study areas, the threat to the battlefield land to be acquired, and the availability of required non-Federal matching funds.

 The grant funds were made available under the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-10) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-74), which appropriated a combined $17,967,600 for the Civil War battlefield land acquisition grants program.  Applications for the balance of the funds are accepted at any time.

June 8, 2012

Rebuilding Ft. Price George in S.C.

Filed under: Early America,Historic Places,Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 9:04 am


The Pickens County Historical Society (in S.C.) is planning to reconstruct Fort Prince George, a French and Indian War post in the far backcountry of South Carolina. The fort was originally built in the 1750s.  A description of the fort from PCHS website:

The fort took only two months to complete and, with its complement of cannons and swivel guns in range of Keowee Town across the river, it was an imposing garrison. Constructed entirely from wood cut from the area, the square fort was relatively small. The walls were made of pine logs 8 to 10 inches in diameter sunk into the ground one beside the other and sharpened on top. A bastion stood at each of the four corners with a swivel cannon in each. The fort contained several wooden buildings with dirt floors which were improved over the years. The garrison was supplied with water from a well located in the center of the fort. The entire footprint of the fort, including the dry moat surrounding it, was only 200 feet square. There were, however, problems. In 1756, Fort Prince George was almost completely rebuilt because of structural issues due in part to the loose, sandy soil on which it stood.

Today the site of Fort Prince George lies one hundred and fifty feet below the water of Lake Keowee. Below is a map of S.C. showing where the fort was located. The site was excavated in the 1960s prior to being flooded by the lake, a report of which is here.

According to a recent news article, the PCHS is exploring the possibility of reconstructing the fort near its original location. “A renewed effort to rebuild historic Fort Prince George is now underway, and the hope is that once completed, the fort will attract a lot of tourists to the area, according to Wayne Kelley, who is helping head up the project.”

The fort was garrisoned by the Independent Company of South Carolina, pictured below in a modern illustration.

June 1, 2012

Maryland 1812 Battlefields Threatened

Filed under: Early America,Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 10:41 am

The Baltimore Sun has a recent article on endangered War of 1812 battle sites in Maryland.

Historians say changes to the way the federal government approaches the sites are long overdue.

“It is surprising how little attention is given to the sites from the Revolution and the War of 1812,” said Thomas J. Cassidy Jr., a lobbyist with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “There are very few protected sites associated with that enormously significant period.”

Other sites at risk in Maryland include several fields in Queen Anne’s County where a small American militia held off a British force of 300 in the 1813 Battle of Slippery Hill. The Department of the Interior list also includes Caulk’s Field, a Kent County battlefield that experts believe is the best-preserved War of 1812 site in the state.”

Battle of Bladensburg, MD

Battle of Bladensburg, MD

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