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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Quakers, the Revolution and Profiling

Conventional understandings of the American Revolution often focus on a two-party dispute between the "Americans" and the "British." Among the colonists were diverse groups; one notable group were the Quakers.  In New Jersey in particular, numerous Friends Meeting Houses were present.  Here is the one at Stony Brook, which feature to an extent in accounts of the Battle of Princeton nearby, and a portion of its cemetery, featuring the DAR stone noting that Richard Stockton, a lawyer and signer of the Declaration of Independence, is buried on the grounds.

The Quakers officially adopted a neutral stance, although there were exceptions--not just Richard Stockton, but "The Fighting Quaker," Nathanael Greene.  However, they were often viewed with suspicion, treated as spies or otherwise harassed by certain Patriots.  Note George Washington's comments in a November, 1777 authorization regarding Army Clothing:  "By virtue of the powers vested in me by the Honorable Congress I hereby Authorize ... to collect all such Blankets, Shoes, Stocking and other Clothing suitable to the use of the Army, within the Counties of ... in the State of Pennsylvania, as the Inhabitants can spare without greatly distressing their Families. In doing this you are to take care, that, the unfriendly Quakers and others notoriously disaffected to the cause of American Liberty do not escape your Vigilance."

One cannot help but think of the current debate over profiling of certain groups as security risks.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Seneca Town and the First Jewish Casualty of the Revolution

On the Clemson University campus in South Carolina is this site identifying the Battle of Seneca Town (also known as Essenecca Town.

I was there on a foggy morning, which added to the atmosphere.  On August 1, 1776, a few weeks after the Declaration of Independence and while the main armies of both Americans and British were massing in and around New York, Maj. Andrew Williamson and his South Carolina militia of about 330 men, led by two captured Loyalists, were attacked by Loyalist and Cherokee forces.  Though Williamson won, among his casualties was Francis Salvador, identified here as "the first Jewish Patriot killed during the Revolution." Salvador was shot, and when found by the Cherokee, scalped.

In John Drayton's Memoirs of the American Revolution, Vol. 2 at page 347, wrote that Salvador "retained his senses, to the last; and, when Major Williamson came up and spoke to him, he anxiously asked whether the enemy were beaten? And upon being told they were, he replied, he rejoiced at it: when shaking the Major by the hand, he bade him farewell--and died."


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Knitting Betty

We go off the trail a bit here, and indulge in a bit of folklore from the Revolution.  On Sourland Mountain, in Somerset County,New Jersey, along one of the roads, is this fractured diabase boulder, resembling pillows.

The folklore is that a woman named Betty sat here knitting, waiting for her lover to return who had gone off to fight in the Revolution.  Upon hearing of his death, she spent the rest of her life sitting on the rock, knitting.  Some say her spirit haunts the place still.  Daniel W. Barefoot, in his Spirits Of '76: Ghost Stories of the American Revolution, writes that her name was actually Betty Wert, that she became a patriot spy and was executed in 1778.

In another part of the mountain is the cave where John Hart hid.  Hart was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and is buried in Hopewell. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bound Brook and the Small Battles of the Revolution

April 13 represents the anniversary of the Battle of Bound Brook, one of the engagements during the "Year of the Hangman"--1777--and reflective of the tug of war in New Jersey.  As previously posted (February 26, 2012), this was a small "battle" in which the British drove the Americans from their small garrison, and then abandoned the place.

This is what remains of the stone bridge where Captain Johann Ewald and his Hessians were pinned down until relief came.  He wrote: "We had no choice but to lie down on the ground before the bridge, whereupon I ordered 'Forward!' sounded constantly.  Luckily for us, Colonel Donop's column appeared after a lapse of eight or ten minutes, whereupon the Americans abandoned the redoubt."

Most people know, or have heard of, the "major" battles.  The Revolution was a long war, though, and the majority of activity was in smaller engagements like this, like death by a thousand cuts.  Nathanael Greene wrote to John Adams: "The Enemy had Evacuated the Town before I got here. They held it about an hour." 

Howard Peckham puts the date as April 12, 1777, and reports 2 Americans killed, 20 captured, and 5 British wounded.  It is fitting as these dates come and go that we remember those killed for ephemeral advantage.