THE HUDSON VALLEY IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
At our April meeting George C. Daughan spoke about his book, Revolution on the Hudson: New York City and the Hudson River Valley in the American War of Independence. Mr. Daughan was given the Roundtable’s award for Best Book on the Revolution of 2016.
BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS
There were no book reviews at our April meeting. Four books for review will be offered at our June meeting. This highlights a new procedure. Books will be identified and briefly described in the Broadside, thus giving potential reviewers a peek at what books will be available. Following are the books that will be offered for review at our June meeting:
1. Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth, by Holger Hoock of the University of Pittsburgh. Professor Hoock believes that histories of the Revolutionary War pay too little attention to the cruelty of war and the use of terror as a weapon. There is no denying war’s cruelty and the terror that all revolutionaries engage in, but it will be interesting to see if whoever reviews this book finds that Professor Hoock pays too much attention to those subjects.
2. Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge, by Professor Erica Armstrong Dunbar of the University of Delaware, who has apparently created a sensation with her tale of escape by a member of the Washington household – not difficult to do in this time of extreme political correctness.
3. Boston’s Massacre, by Professor Eric Hinderaker of the University of Utah. Hinderaker, a well known scholar of colonial, revolutionary, and early America, takes a new forensic-based view of events on that cold March night.
4. Rivals Unto Death: Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, by Rick Beyer, historian and documentarian, who employs a countdown to bring readers to the Heights of Weehawken.
MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION IN YORKTOWN
On March 30th Jack Buchanan gave the keynote address on South Carolina day at the Museum of the American Revolution in Yorktown. He spoke on the partisan war in the Carolinas and Georgia
MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION IN PHILADELPHIARoundtablers have gone from famine to feast. We are now blessed with two museums dedicated to the Revolution and the Revolutionary War (John Adams was careful to point out that there was a difference.) when there were none. The February Broadside described the museum at Yorktown. That issue also mentioned that the statue of George III which stood at Bowling Green until 9 July 1776, when it was toppled and destroyed by Rebels, was replicated in a studio in Brooklyn. The reconstruction is now in the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. The museum also features the headquarters tent that George Washington used during the war. The tent had belonged to the Valley Forge Historical Society, which turned over its entire collection to the museum.
The Philadelphia museum opened on 19 April 2017, 242 years after the start of the War in Lexington, Massachusetts. Roundtablers no doubt read the articles about the museum in the New York Times. The most interesting article, however, appeared on 12 April in the Wall Street Journal, authored by Edward Rothstein, the Journal’s critic-at-large. Given that newspaper’s political tilt, his review of the new museum should not be surprising. In his discussion of why it took so long for a museum on the Revolution to appear, he wonders if one reason is that “it is so difficult to understand. The 18th century British empire, for all its constrictions, offered more liberty than any preceding regime in history. In the American colonies, with the considerable exception of slaves, British subjects were hardly steeped in oppression.” He comments on current attacks on the “first nation created around a set of ideas” because it “overlooked half the human race by gender,” and in the Constitution counted “the enslaved . . . but three-fifths of a free man.” He criticizes “strange proportions.” Why, for example, is the Baroness von Riedesel, who was with the British army during the Saratoga Campaign, as “impressive as she was,” given far more attention than the man whose mistakes played a key role in the British defeat: General John Burgoyne. And why is the contemporary woman historian of the Revolution, Mercy Otis Warren, “given more attention than” one of world history’s most important political documents: the Federalist Papers.
Those are but a few of Rothstein’s criticisms. His review underscores the importance of Roundtablers, with our devotion to the Revolution and the war that was fought for liberty, touring the new museum and making up our own minds. That may be possible.
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE ON PARCHMENT
The 1776 parchment Declaration displayed at the National Archives in Washington was the only one known to exist. Now another Declaration of Independence on parchment has been discovered in, of all places, the West Sussex Record Office in the cathedral city of Chichester, England. It is thought to have been made in the mid-1780’s by a commercial clerk, probably in New York or Philadelphia. The parchment came to the notice of Professor Danielle Allen of Harvard in an online catalogue of British archives, but it provided no date or other details. The parchment was deposited in the West Sussex Record office in 1956 by a British law firm associated with the Dukes of Richmond. Professor Allen and her co-worker, Emily Sneff, a researcher at Harvard, went to Chichester to examine the document. They speculate that this second parchment came into the possession of the third Duke of Richmond, a supporter of American independence, through Thomas Paine. They also believe that the parchment was commissioned by James Wilson, one of six men who signed both the Declaration and the Constitution. Wilson, a Pennsylvania lawyer, was a strong nationalist. There is a striking difference between the newly discovered parchment and the one in the National Archives and copies: the ordering of the 56 signatures. In all known 18th century iterations of the Declaration the signatures are grouped by states. In the Chichester parchment, however, they were grouped in a random order that, Allen and Sneff argue, was meant to send a political message: that the signers pledged, as the Declaration puts it, “to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor” as individuals, not as representatives of states. And this ties in to an enduring puzzle at the heart of American politics: Was the country founded by a united national people, or by a collection of states? – which Professor Allen calls the key riddle of the American system, a riddle that has bedeviled American history from debates over Southern secession to calls to abolish the Electoral College today. We have no doubt that scholars will be arguing about the meaning of the Chichester parchment for decades to come. An article on the discovery appeared in the New York Times of 22 April 2017.
WASHINGTON’S HEADQUARTERS STATE HISTORIC SITE
The importance of lay volunteers in community organizations was emphasized on 29 April at Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, New York The call went out for people interested in volunteering to attend the 7th Annual Newburgh Volunteer Fair to learn what organizations in their communities are doing and how they can lend a helping hand. Representatives from many of the non-profit organizations based in Newburgh and the surrounding area were there with information about volunteer opportunities for teenagers and adults, including seniors. This annual event is an example of how historic sites can also be used to further volunteer participation in their communities.
MORRISTOWN NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK – A CASH COW
The economic importance of the Morristown Park alone was emphasized by a National Park Service report showing that in 2016, 252,000 visitors to the Morristown facility spent $14.8-million in communities near the Park. That spending supported 193 jobs in the local area and had cumulative benefit of to the local economy of $20.7-million. Morristown Superintendent Tom Ross was quoted as stating that “National Park Tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning more than $10 for every $1.00 invested in the National Park Service . . . .” Regionally, Revolutionary War heritage sites and battlefields located within the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area welcomed approximately 900,000 visitors to New Jersey, generating an economic impact of $166.6-million and supporting 1,729 jobs. The data used to calculate the impacts was based on a three-year average: 2013, 2014, and 2015. On the national scale, a peer-reviewed study by economists from the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey showed $18.4-billion of direct spending by 331 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 318,000 jobs nationally. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $34.9-billion. Is it too much to ask the budgetary slash and burn folks in Washington to take heed of these significant statistics and not act rashly?
On Saturday, May 30th, the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys Round Table invited the public to a special Living History Event, “Brewer, Baker, Candlestick Maker,” at Fort Klock in St. Johnsville, New York, located in the historic Mohawk Valley. In addition to the trades listed above, the event will feature the following: Blacksmith, Weaver, Cooper, Tinsmith, Chandler, Medical Surgeon, 18th century Kid’s Games, and a Kid’s Militia Muster. This young Round Table is to be congratulated for its schedule of events.
FIFE & DRUMS GALORE
On 5 and 6 May three of the nation’s top fife & drum corps performed on Lexington Common, the site of the April 19, 1775 skirmish between British troops and local militia that marked the beginning of the War of the Revolution. The host corps, the William Diamond Junior Fife & Drum Corps, is named after the teen-aged drummer on duty that day. Thirty fife & drum units from all around the Great Northeast were scheduled to perform in a parade ending at the Minute Man National Historic Park.
NEW SERIES BY SAVAS BEATTIE
The publisher Savas Beattie has announced the start of the Emerging Revolutionary War Series. The first release coming this year is A Single Blow: The Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Beginning of the American Revolution, by Phillip S. Greenwalt and Robert Orrison. The second title to be released is Victory or Death: The Battles of Trenton and Princeton, December 25, 1776 – January 3, 1777, by Mark Maloy. And late summer or early fall will see a complete guide to the Declaration of Independence.
Port Washington, NY, on Long Island’s North Shore, is best known as the community that was East Egg in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, where Sinclair Lewis wrote his first novel, John Phillip Sousa wrote some of his last marches, and Pan American Airways earliest scheduled flight took off. What it is not well known for was the Baxter House, an eighteenth century farmhouse in which Hessian soldiers serving with the British Army during the Revolutionary War were quartered. In the 1890’s one room served as the first local library, and for a time in the twentieth century the actress Tallulah Bankhead of Lifeboat fame lived there. Sadly, it is no more. Although it had landmark designation, it was allowed to fall into disrepair, despite a Facebook campaign begun in late 2015 by local preservationists. On Sunday, 9 February 2017, fire consumed the house and reduced it to a “blackened wreck.”
Before Joseph Plumb Martin became Private Yankee Doodle, he was a fourteen year old lad living with his grandparents in Milford, Connecticut. He was ploughing a field on 21 April 1775, when “all of a sudden the bells fell to ringing and three guns were repeatedly fired in succession down in the village; what the cause was we could not conjecture.” The cause was the beginning of the War of the Revolution, two days previously at Lexington and Concord. Young Joseph hurried to the village and found that “soldiers for Boston were in requisition.” Recruitment was simple. A dollar was placed on a drumhead and taken by a recruit, who was then signed up and ordered “to equip himself as soon as possible.” At the sight of those dollars being picked up, he wrote, “the seeds of courage began to sprout. Oh, thought I, if I were but old enough . . . I would be the possessor of one dollar, the dangers of war to the contrary notwithstanding . . . .” A year elapsed, and in June 1776 Joseph Plumb Martin did enlist, for six months – months that turned into seven years at war. Martin would write a delightful and important book, Being a Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier. Those who have not read it should. It is a treat.
THE SPEAKER FOR JUNE
The speaker will be one of our own: Arthur Lefkowtiz. Arthur’s much-needed book, Eyewitness Images from the American Revolution, was released by Pelican Publishing in late March of this year. Its 109 accurate images, along with text, create a chronological history of the Revolution. Arthur will show many of the images during his talk. The book will not be available at the meeting, but if anybody wishes to bring a copy to the meeting, Arthur would be pleased to sign it.
A DIGITAL MESSAGE FROM OUR CHAIRMAN
We hope you will e-mail your reservation for our meeting on June 6th to our Secretary Treasurer at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will meet at our usual home away from home, the Coffee House Club at 20 W. 44th St, 6th floor, at 6:00 p.m. If you are bringing a guest(s), give their names to Jon in the same or another e-mail. If you want to pay in advance, send your check to Jon at 57 West 70th St., Apt. 3A, NYC 10023. You can also telephone Jon at (212) 874-5121. We look forward to seeing you.
Your most obdt svt,
David W. Jacobs