Dr. Peter Lubrecht, who teaches English and Theater at Berkeley College, New Jersey, spoke on his 2016 book New Jersey Hessians: Truth and Lore in the American Revolution. Your editor was particularly gratified to hear a scholar finally explain that the Hessian and other German troops in the War for Independence were not mercenaries, as invariably described, but conscripts. They were drafted into the armies of their petty princelings and rented out by those rulers to customers like George III for cannon fodder. The Count of Hesse got more money from King George if a soldier was killed. Three wounded men fetched as much as one Killed In Action. The average age of these draftees was thirteen.
This misunderstanding is chief among a number of confusions about the Hessians. They were not all from Hesse, but from several different German principalities. They did not all wear tall brass hats. Only the Grenadiers did.
IRVING STOLE HEADLESS HORSEMAN FROM NEW JERSEY!
The most surprising revelation from Dr. Lubrecht was that Washington Irving visited Morristown, New Jersey and heard the local legend of the Hessian rider beheaded by a cannonball. Irving merely relocated the Headless Horseman to Sleepy Hollow (North Tarrytown), New York. And the name “Ichabod Crane” was one Irving found on a tombstone in Morristown.
$15 TO PHILLY!
Culture scene reporter and blogger Polly Guérin passes along this tip for those bound for the City of Brotherly Love, whether to visit the new Museum of the American Revolution, have a hoagie or a cheese steak sandwich, or just to prove W. C. Fields wrong, ’cuz Philly has lots to offer.
Your strategy for a cheap trip thither is to buy a round trip combo ticket from Penn Station to Trenton on New Jersey Transit, then walk right across the platform and get on the SEPTA (South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority) local to 30th Street Station, Philadelphia. The regular fare is $16.75 for NJT and $10 for the SEPTA ticket, one way, so about $54 for the round trip. The senior rate is $7.65 and $9, so about $15 one way and about $32 round trip. Amtrak is much more expensive.
Polly Guérin’s blog can be found at: www.pollytalk.com. Polly is the author of The Dynamics of Color.
BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS
At the February meeting, Madelaine Piel, at only her second Round Table, reviewed Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge. Madelaine found the book revealing. It shows a dark side of George and Martha, but you have to take the bad with the good when you study history.
Doesn’t “Never Caught” give away the ending already in the title?
By the way, Madelaine Piel is related to the beer Piel. I heard someone say “Mrs. Piel” last night and for a moment I thought it was Steed in “The Avengers.”
Frederick Cookinham reviewed Eric Hinderaker’s Boston’s Massacre. Harvard U. Press, 2017. Fred found the book to be a useful addition to the specialist’s and the non-specialist’s understanding of the event alike. The author explains much about the city of Boston, life in the British army, and colonial politics. The book has lots of maps and illustrations, and they help the reader understand and even feel as though he was there as the massacre happened. Always a pleasure to finally read all the details about an incident we have all heard about all our lives, but until now had only a sketchy understanding of.
Chairman David Jacobs wore a new hat last night as a book reviewer. He recommended The Ultimate Guide to the Declaration of Independence, by David Hirsch and Dan van Haften. Dave compared this 2017 offering to Pauline Maier’s book American Scripture. (Maier spoke about her book to the Round Table in 1998 and died in 2013.) The new book is a quarter of the length of Maier’s, but thorough nonetheless, and it comes from authors of a unique perspective: Mr. Hirsch is a lawyer and Dr. van Haften has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. The engineer contributes flow diagrams, to help us visualize the organization of the Declaration, while the lawyer analyzes the document as a summation to a jury – the world being the jury and King George III as the defendant.
On February 22, George Birthington’s Washday, Harlow Giles Unger spoke at Fraunces Tavern Museum about his new book, First Founding Father: Richard Henry Lee and the Call to Independence. Unger has spoken at the Round Table, back when we used to meet at the Williams Club.
A WISE FATHER
Why did George Washington’s father decide not to punish young George for killing his favorite cherry tree?
Because George still had the ax in his hand.
SITE CITES SIGHTS – BOXWOOD HALL
Since these pages mentioned, and plugged, the Morris-Jumel Mansion historic site in both of the last two issues, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires other local historic sites and sights be mentioned too, lest favoritism be (correctly) inferred.
Therefore, we hereby begin a new feature for BROADSIDE. In each ish, we will profile a different local Revolutionary site for sightseeing. We begin with Boxwood Hall, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. This was the home of patriot Elias Boudinot. It is significant now, in these days of Hamiltonmania, as the house where Alexander Hamilton may have been first introduced to Aaron Burr.
Elias Boudinot (1740-1821) was Commissary General for Prisoners of the Continental Army in the War for Independence. He bought this house in 1772. Young Hamilton boarded here for about ten months, then moved in with the Livingstons at Liberty Hall, just two miles away. While Elias went off to fight, his wife Hannah fled from the advancing British and spent the war at another family property in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Returning at the end of the war, the Boudinots lived in this house from 1783 to 1795. The next owner was Jonathan Dayton, who made his pile in Ohio land investments, hence the city of Dayton, Ohio. He lent money to Aaron Burr during the latter’s mysterious activities out west, and that put Dayton under suspicion of treason. Both Burr and Dayton were cleared, Dayton without even coming to trial, but the scandal ruined Dayton’s political career.
Hannah Boudinot was the younger sister of Richard Stockton, Declaration of Independence signer from New Jersey. Elias, of Huguenot ancestry, was the tenth President of the Continental Congress.
The house is at 1073 East Jersey Street, Elizabeth, and you can easily walk the few short blocks from there to Elizabethtown’s Francis Barber (later, Snider) Academy, just as Hamilton must have done when he was boarding with the Boudinots and studying, as Burr had also done, at that academy. The house is now on the AHA tour – the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Association, and getting more attention on that account. Even so, it is off the beaten tourist track, and Elias Boudinot is not among the most famous patriots today, never having been the subject of a Broadway musical, so the staff at Boxwood Hall will be very happy to see you. A married couple lives in the house and they are most of the staff. Not only were they glad to see me when I visited, but when I told them I was a licensed tour guide, they even let me behind the ropes!
Are the floorboards in the house today the same ones Hamilton walked on? – I asked. Maybe. Although there have been spot repairs, most of those boards go back a long way. I was told that the wood is so tough that if you try to drive a nail into it, the hammer will bounce up and hit you in the eye.
Boxwood Hall is now on Facebook: boxwoodhallstatehistoricsite. Open Monday-Friday and on weekends by appointment.
AMERICAN SPIRIT MAGAZINE
At the February Round Table, Patricia Samperi, of Hoboken, was kind enough to give your editor four recent numbers of the DAR magazine, American Spirit. In addition to the DAR’s own activities in historic preservation (and in a school and children’s home called Crossnore, at two locations in North Carolina), the DAR members are active in other non-profit endeavors, such as saving butterfly habitats. One DAR chapter in Minnesota is collaborating with the Save Our Monarchs Foundation to redress the current population decline of these brightly colored creatures. The article did not take notice, though, to my disappointment, of the irony of the Daughters of an anti-monarchical revolution now helping to preserve Monarchs. Some brightly-colored creatures are more worthy of preservation than others.
Another article in the same issue tells of the recent conservation of General Washington’s tent, which was shown several years ago at the New-York Historical Society, and is now on display at the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.
THE REVOLUTION IN APRIL By Lynne “Lois Lane” Saginaw, Star Reporter
1776: 4th - George Washington started his march to New York. Fearing a possible British invasion, George Washington began moving his ragtag army south from Boston. The inadequacies of pay and supply he experienced even at this early date demonstrated the impractical nature of the Articles of Confederation and, in a sense, put the new nation on the path to its Constitution.
1790: 17th – Benjamin Franklin died at eighty-four. After an enormously full and distinguished life, America’s grand polymath – printer, publisher, scientist, humorist, author, diplomat, postmaster, legislator, and governor – passed from the scene in Philadelphia, never to be forgotten.*
1758 – 28th – James Monroe was born in Virginia. The fifth president, the last of the Founding Fathers to become president, also served as a senator and as envoy to Paris. A skilled political operator, he authored the Missouri Compromise and promulgated the Monroe Doctrine.
1789 – 30th – George Washington’s presidency was inaugurated on this date, in the capital, New York City. Chosen by unanimous vote of sixty-nine electors, Washington took his oath on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street.
*By the way, I neglected to add gourmand to Franklin's list of accomplishments. This assertion is demonstrated in the new book Stirring the Pot with Ben Franklin: A Founding Father's Culinary Adventures by food historian Rae Katherine Eighmey. An informative and amusing publication of the Smithsonian Press (2018), it describes in lively terms Franklin's devotion to American food, even when serving (and being served) overseas. Mrs. Franklin sent him cranberries, which the British had never seen. And he was happy to try the local fare in every posting.
It was all part of the inquisitive nature and open-mindedness that were his trademark. Ms. Eighmey includes over 60 authentic recipes, slightly updated for more modern kitchens, but not enough to vitiate the feeling of cooking in the 18th century. (No blenders need apply.) I'm looking forward to trying my hand at baking "Wigs," a soft roll flavored with ginger, nutmeg and sherry.
The June ARRT will be on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, so the BROADSIDE should be expected by email about Tuesday, May 22, and the deadline for submissions to the BROADSIDE will be Tuesday, May 15.
FIFTH ARRT CONGRESS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY By Jon Carriel
A New Yorker is urgently needed to manifest some hard-headed business sense among the wild-eyed radicals from Massachusetts and Virginia who will likely predominate among the participants of the Fifth Congress of American Revolution Round Tables!
Um, well ... actually, Jack Buchanan and I, who have participated as the ARRT-NY "delegates" in the most recent "congresses"--Morristown, NJ, in 2014 and Charleston, SC, in 2016--found the experience of meeting our fellow AmRev enthusiasts from all over the Original Thirteen very enjoyable, and regret that, for various personal reasons, neither of us can do so again this time. The upcoming gathering is scheduled for Yorktown, VA, April 6-8 (the weekend following our next NYC meeting).
Anyone thinking of upholding the Excelsior flag at the Congress might be well-advised also to plan a personal day or two vacation before or afterward, in Colonial Williamsburg, a 300-acre, 500-building complex that is perhaps the most successful exemplar of the "living history" paradigm I've ever enjoyed.
For full details: www.ARRT-NY.org/ARRT 2018 congress.pdf
AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM OUR CHAIRMAN
The Round Table will be mustered – and if you are late you’ll have to ketchup – on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 at 6 p.m., at the Coffee House Club, on the sixth floor of the General Society Library, 20 West 44th Street.
Your most obdt svt,
David W. Jacobs