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Old 05-30-2009, 12:39 PM
 
Location: Aloverton
6,560 posts, read 14,507,803 times
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That war produced a cast of colorful characters, especially on the Colonial side. Who can resist a general named "Mad Anthony" Wayne? The elan of Casimir Pulaski, the prototypically valiant Polish cavalryman who died for the Colonies in 1779? Baron von Steuben whipping the Continental Army in shape via interpreters, even ordering them to curse up a blue streak? "Swamp Fox" Francis Marion, leading everyone on merry chases through Dixie? Loutish, treacherous Ethan Allen, as obnoxious as they came? The respect shown by Rochambeau in refusing Cornwallis' surrender, when his aide told Corny that if he wanted to pack it in, he'd have to surrender to Washington as Commander in Chief? (I love telling that one every time I hear the phrase 'surrender monkeys'.) And there are many more. Many, many more. I bet high school U.S. history class would be a lot more interesting if we taught them what a lot of eccentrics ran the show.

I'd like to hear who fascinates you most, and why, and what they did. I'd especially like to know more about the more colorful/capable commanders on the British/Tory side. The one that stands out most to me is the bloody dragoon chief Banastre Tarleton, who may have been ruthless but was most certainly valiant, brilliant and utterly loyal to his own country. My read of the leadership on the Anglo/German side is that it was often locally quite competent and brave, but was badly paralyzed at the strategic level by a mixture of jealousies, turf wars, insubordination and wanting to go home. It seems the Colonials eventually won independence simply by surviving until the British threw up their hands and said: "In fact, it's a miserable and barbaric place, with horrible winters up north and pestilential humidity down south. If they're fools enough to want it so badly, let's be shut of it and them."
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Old 05-31-2009, 07:36 AM
 
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J_K_K,

Thanks for starting a thread on the revolutionary war. It's an era that so few of us know much about. To many it probably seemed like a minor skirmish. And yet, comparatively speaking, it was one of the bloodiest, protracted wars that our countrymen have ever fought. I've always had an interest in the genius of the men who founded our country, but I knew little about the actual war and the men and women who fought it until I read David McCullough's 1776. Another is Jimmy Carter's The Hornet's Nest, although a novel, is a fascinating tale laced with historical facts of the little-known war in the Deep South that few of us take note of.

One of the men who stands out in my mind is Henry Knox, the former Boston bookseller who became one of General Washington's best artillery officers and most trusted aides. Knox sold Washington on the idea of retrieving the cannon abandoned by the British at Fort Ticonderoga after their defeat by Benedict Arnold, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys earlier in the same year. Knox was so confident it could be done that, surprisingly, Washington
agreed to let the brash young officer take some men and attempt to do so. Although a large, genial man, Knox had little to recommend him as a military officer and especially an artilleryman. He was mostly self-educated.and his knowledge of artillery came chiefly from his reading of books.

To say it was a daunting task to move 60 tons of artillery over rivers, mountains and heavily forested terrain in the dead of winter would be a gross understatement. Most of the artillery, consisting of mortars and cannon, was left by the French left after their defeat by the British in 1759. Each of the three mortars weighed a ton and one 24-pound cannon weighed over 5000 pounds. The plan was to load the guns onto boats and transport them to the southern end of Lake George. From there it would be a difficult overland passage to Albany before turning east over the Berkshire Mountains and the long, arduous trek to Boston. Knox and his men had counted on being able to move their heavy cargo on sleds over snow, but there was little snow on the ground. To add to their difficulties a "cruel thaw" set in and progress halted. Just getting to Albany required four crossings of the Hudson river. When the weather changed. it brought a blizzard and three feet of snow. In pressing on alone, Knox nearly froze to death before finding horses and a sleigh to complete the journey to Albany.

Later, they had a harrowing crossing of the frozen Hudson, including the loss of one of the largest cannons which broke through the ice and was retrieved after a day of toil. Being familiar with the Berkshires, I can only marvel at the thought of moving heavy artillery over that formidable terrain. Some have described it as a miracle, and so it seems. Knox and his men finally complete the journey of almost 300 miles in two months and delivered their cargo to Framingham near Boston without the loss of a gun. No doubt, it was a monumental feat in the annals of military history. Knox went on to distinguish himself as one of Washington's ablest generals. I'm sure much more could be said about Knox, the unlikely bookseller who became a Revolutionary War hero. His later life as a business proprietor in Maine was one of highs and lows, as it is with most men, but he will always be remembered for his daring to attempt the unthinkable.
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Old 05-31-2009, 09:56 AM
 
Location: Wheaton, Illinois
10,260 posts, read 21,831,032 times
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I admire Cornwallis. The man was energetic and imaginative; indeed it may have been those very virtues that brought him down as the other British commanders involved, both military and naval, lacked them.

He was also a fair and humane governor in both Ireland and India. I think he was a decent man.

As a Chicagoan I find William Caldwell interesting. An Irishman, he led British forces based in Detroit against the American frontier and defeated the Americans at Blue Licks. His half Potawatami son Billy Caldwell (called Sauganash by the Potawatami) was involved in the fur trade and politics in early Chicago and owned a large tract of land on what's now Chicago's far Northwest Side, indeed a neighborhood up there, Sauganash, bears his name. And there's a Billy Caldwell forest preserve golf course too.
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Old 05-31-2009, 12:03 PM
 
Location: t' grim north
521 posts, read 1,475,953 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j_k_k View Post
That war produced a cast of colorful characters, especially on the Colonial side. Who can resist a general named "Mad Anthony" Wayne? The elan of Casimir Pulaski, the prototypically valiant Polish cavalryman who died for the Colonies in 1779? Baron von Steuben whipping the Continental Army in shape via interpreters, even ordering them to curse up a blue streak? "Swamp Fox" Francis Marion, leading everyone on merry chases through Dixie? Loutish, treacherous Ethan Allen, as obnoxious as they came? The respect shown by Rochambeau in refusing Cornwallis' surrender, when his aide told Corny that if he wanted to pack it in, he'd have to surrender to Washington as Commander in Chief? (I love telling that one every time I hear the phrase 'surrender monkeys'.) And there are many more. Many, many more. I bet high school U.S. history class would be a lot more interesting if we taught them what a lot of eccentrics ran the show.

I'd like to hear who fascinates you most, and why, and what they did. I'd especially like to know more about the more colorful/capable commanders on the British/Tory side. The one that stands out most to me is the bloody dragoon chief Banastre Tarleton, who may have been ruthless but was most certainly valiant, brilliant and utterly loyal to his own country. My read of the leadership on the Anglo/German side is that it was often locally quite competent and brave, but was badly paralyzed at the strategic level by a mixture of jealousies, turf wars, insubordination and wanting to go home. It seems the Colonials eventually won independence simply by surviving until the British threw up their hands and said: "In fact, it's a miserable and barbaric place, with horrible winters up north and pestilential humidity down south. If they're fools enough to want it so badly, let's be shut of it and them."
Without doubt there were many deficiencies in British military leadership at this time (rich sons being able to but a commission was a hopeless idea) but lets be honest (or should that be controversial) - Britain had bigger distractions to deal with at the time, so a full effort was not made to suppress the criminal act of treason
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Old 05-31-2009, 06:13 PM
 
Location: Dayton, OH
1,225 posts, read 4,467,514 times
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Quote:
As a Chicagoan I find William Caldwell interesting. An Irishman, he led British forces based in Detroit against the American frontier and defeated the Americans at Blue Licks. His half Potawatami son Billy Caldwell (called Sauganash by the Potawatami) was involved in the fur trade and politics in early Chicago and owned a large tract of land on what's now Chicago's far Northwest Side, indeed a neighborhood up there, Sauganash, bears his name. And there's a Billy Caldwell forest preserve golf course too.
Fascinating! Im familiar with the Blue Licks battle..the battlefield is a state park with a fairly new lodge. But I certainly didnt know about the connection to Billy Caldwell (former Chicagoan who was quite familiar with Caldwells Woods).

Some of the more obscure theatres in the Revolution are footnotes, but entertaining ones.

As we all know Spain eventually came in on the US side. They were defeated at sea. But they did engage the UK on land too. An odd one is the taking of Pensacola, which was defended by...not Brits but Hessian mercenaries (from the very wooded and remote principality of Waldeck). One can imagine what a strange climate this was for the Germans.

Then there was the campaigns for the old Northwest. The George Rogers Clark tale is probably known to all..the taking of Kakaskia and then Vincennes.

But a little known campaign was a Spansih-led expedition to take a fort held by the Brits in Michigan, near Niles or St Joe. St Louis was Spanish at that time, but the force was made up of locals, probably French and French/Indians, I think led by Spaniards.
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Old 05-31-2009, 06:50 PM
 
Location: Wheaton, Illinois
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JefferyT View Post
Fascinating! Im familiar with the Blue Licks battle..the battlefield is a state park with a fairly new lodge. But I certainly didnt know about the connection to Billy Caldwell (former Chicagoan who was quite familiar with Caldwells Woods).

I lived in Lexington Ky for three years and visted Blue Licks several times.

Speaking of the Spanish expedition to Michigan; Little Turtle, the Miami famous for his part in the Northwest Indian War, during the Revolution in 1780 defeated a Franco-American-Indian force led by the French colonel LaBalme that had invaded Miami country, perhaps with an eye to operating against Detroit.
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Old 06-01-2009, 11:49 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
48,564 posts, read 24,254,841 times
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I'm of the mind that Daniel Morgan is deserving of more ink and admiration than he has received. Morgan was a well experienced soldier before the revolution began. He had been a Ranger in the British army during the French and Indian War and later led a miltia unit fighting against Pontiac's Rebellion. His first Revolutionary War action was the extraordinarily grueling march to Canada and attack on Quebec in a blizard, carried out by starving, frozen, exhausted men. Morgan assumed command when Benedict Arnold was wounded. It was Morgan's men who managed to fight their way into the city, and since they were the only ones who did so, they wound up surrounded and captured. Morgan was exchanged the following year, joining Washington's Continental Army and leading one of the few units upon whom Washington could consistently rely to stand fast or attack with zeal.

Morgan and his rifle company were dispatched by Washington to aid Gates against Burgoyne and Morgan's on the field leadership was a key element in the victories at Freeman's Farm and Bennis Heights.

His greatest moment of course was commanding the American forces at Cowpens against the hated Colonel Tarleton. (In Mel Gibson's "The Patriot", Cowpens is the battle being copied in the big clash at the end.) With 600 regulars and a few hundred untested militia troops, Morgan did not just win, he routed the veteran British troops, sening them fleeing for their lives in disorder from the battlefield.

Morgan became ill shortly thereafter and was unable to return to service until just before the war was concluded. He returned to service once again when called upon to command the troops charged with breaking the Whiskey Rebellion.

Since the British won most of the set piece battles during the war, it is difficult to find an American officer without some spotty stains on the record. Morgan seems an exception, all of his commands behaved with skill and courage. At Saratoga he was a critical element in one of the few American victories, at Cowpens he was the architect of a tremendous victory.
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Old 06-02-2009, 12:22 PM
 
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One of the not-so-well known facts of the Revolutionary War is that women sometimes accompanied their soldier husbands to camp, performing duties of cooking and washing, as they would at home. Many attended and nursed wounded soldiers. One of the women, Margaret Cochran Corbin, even fought alongside her husband, and was the first woman to be awarded a soldier's disability pension by the US government.

When the British and Hessian troops attacked Fort Washington, NY, on November 16, 1776, the gunner, who Margaret's husband John had been assisting, was killed in the fighting. John took the gunner's place and sometime later he was killed. Without hesitation, Margaret stepped in and continued to load and fire the cannon until she was badly wounded in the shoulder, chest and jaw. She was removed to safety by other soldiers. Although the fort was captured, the British allowed the wounded Americans to leave. She endured a painful journey to Philadelphia, first by boat and then by wagon over rough roads. She permanently lost the use of her left arm and "never fully recovered from her wounds."

The Continental Congress awarded her a pension in 1779 due to her conspicuous bravery, and she was "included on the regimental muster lists until the end of the war in 1783." Just before her fifiteth birthday she died near West Point, NY. The Daughters of the American Revolution had her remains moved in 1926 from a remote site to the Old Cadet Chapel at West Point, where they erected a monument in her honor. A bronze plaque at he site of the battle marks her participation and is inscribed as "the first American woman to take a soldier's part in the War for Liberty."

Note: Much of the information for this story was paraphrased from an online article contributed by Danuta Bois (1997) in Distinguished Women of Past and Present
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Old 06-03-2009, 10:28 AM
 
Location: Aloverton
6,560 posts, read 14,507,803 times
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Excellent insights. Hope they continue!
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